The eight co-operation project teams managing the co-operation entry route of the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) have been busy in recent weeks holding information meetings to inform farmers about the new scheme.
The co-operation entry route differs to the general entry route as payments will be dictated to a greater degree by the results-based model and many actions recommended to improve payments will be formulated by the project team.
There are opportunities for participants to benefit from non-productive investments or landscape actions and these will also differ across and even within regions.
Following the round of recent meetings Mary McAndrew, project manager for ACRES West Connacht co-operation area outlined the main questions received to the Irish Farmers Journal. Farmers interested in applying need to act quickly with the closing date of midnight on 7 December approaching fast.
1 How do I know if I am in the co-operation zone or the general area?
Your farm adviser will be able to tell you which category you are in. Alternatively, if you are registered for text updates with the Department, you can text on 50124 with the message ‘DAFM ACRES’ followed by your herd number. This will tell you if you are in the general or the co-operation area.
2 What is the difference between the co-operation zone and the general scheme
The co-operation areas will operate as a results-based payment programme and will be scored next summer by your adviser. Once your adviser has scored your land you can select non-productive investments (NPIs) or landscape actions to help improve the score of your land.
The general scheme is similar to GLAS. There is a list of actions the farmer can select with their adviser, and these make up your core payment in ACRES general. A list of the specifications for these actions can be found at gov.ie/acres.
3 How to I apply to the programme if I am in the co-operation area?
Your farm adviser must submit an application for you whether you are in the general or the co-operation area.
4 I am in the co-operation zone; my adviser cannot tell me what actions I should do next year.
The co-operation areas are being run as a results-based programme, so all of your land will be scored next year, using habitat scorecards, and a payment rate will apply depending on the score. Once the land has been scored there will be an opportunity to select appropriate actions. The scorecards and payment rates are available to view on gov.ie/acres
5 When will my land be scored?
Scoring will take place in the summer, from June to August. This is when most of the positive indicators are in flower.
6 Who scores my land?
Your adviser will score your private land. The project team will be responsible for scoring commonage. There will be no fee for the scoring of commonages.
7 Can I join ACRES and participate in the organic scheme?
Yes, you can be in both schemes. Where there is a risk of double funding, the payment under the organic scheme will be reduced. In ACRES co-operation zones, the result-based payment rate will be reduced by €250/ha. See full details in ACRES Specification, Appendix 6 p116
8 I am in the co-operation area but don’t know what my payment will be?
Payments will be determined by the score of the land next summer (see Tables 1 and 2).
There is a maximum results-based payment of €7,000 and up to €3,500 will be available in voluntary
supporting actions (non-productive investments or landscape actions) within the co-operation area. In the general scheme there is a maximum yearly payment of €7,311 available.
9 The co-operation zones sound complicated and look like I’ll have to do more work than previous environmental schemes. How much time will ACRES require?
There is less work really. As the payments in ACRES co-operation zones are results-based, you are paid on the current quality of the habitat. You get out of it what you put in, so the number of actions you decide to do is up to you.
10 Are farm advisers putting in actions on the ACRES general yearly or are they put in at the beginning for five years?
No, the general scheme is similar to GLAS, actions are selected in year one and that is the basis of the contract for the five years. Farmers in the co-operation zone have the flexibility to select NPIs and or landscape actions each year.