The Department of Agriculture issued a cautionary message to farmers and Farm Advisory System (FAS) advisers at the start of this week after it found that a significant number of applications had in error withdrawn their participation in the eco scheme.

An analysis of early applications submitted under the Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) found that approximately 12% of farmers had chosen not to apply for the eco scheme, despite being eligible.

The vast majority of these withdrawals were found in applications submitted by farmers with a small number by FAS advisers. The high withdrawal rates raised concerns and the errors were identified in follow-up examinations by Department personnel.

The BISS portal has been updated to give farmers a clear indication that if they opt out of the eco scheme, they will not receive payment under that scheme in 2023.

Opting out is perfectly acceptable where farmers intend to opt out of the voluntary scheme, but it is important that applicants are fully aware of the financial consequences.

Payment rates will depend on the level of participation but based on a participation rate of about 95%, the level of payment will be in the region of €65 to €66/ha. This amounts to almost €2,000 for a 30ha farm or almost €3,250 for a 50ha farm, highlighting the importance of submitting your application correctly.

Participation in the eco scheme is also made all the more attractive by the fact that in the region of 93% of applicants will qualify for payment by satisfying the space for nature measure of at least 10% of lands falling under the heading.

It appears that the cautionary message has delivered on its aim with advisers reporting high levels of contact with farmers and applications looking more normal.