Commercial farmers interested in adopting environmental measures and progressing their individual sustainability will be particularly disappointed with the new Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES), Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) president Pat McCormack has said.
“We think that the Government is making a very significant strategic error in deliberately shutting out commercial farming from these environmental schemes.
“But even that aside, ACRES represents a regression from REPS. The reality is that we previously had 66,000 farmers in REPS and we are now down to 50,000 farmers - with 20,000 of those ring-fenced to certain parts of the country,” he said.
He said the new scheme should have been expanded in both membership numbers and enhanced payments.
“We think that around 66,000 farmers was certainly attainable and against the kind of rocketing farm input costs that everyone knows about, the payments should have been increased proportionally.
“But it’s this Government policy of setting environmental progress in opposition to commercial farming - and specifically commercial dairy farming - that is going to emerge as the major mistake and it’s as avoidable as it is strategic,” McCormack said.
He said the new ACRES scheme will be “nothing like” the previous REPS scheme, as had been previously suggested by the Government, and McCormack noted that “no amount of soundbites” was going to hide that reality.