A baseline measurement of environmental assets on farms is critical to assess the success of future agri-environmental schemes, the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) has said.

The association representing over 150 private farm advisory businesses has welcomed the Farm Environmental Survey pilot announced by the Department of Agriculture.

The aim is to survey 8,000 farms in 2022 to generate a database of baseline habitat and biodiversity data at farm level.

Farmers will be paid €200 for taking part in a survey while the adviser payment will be a minimum of €300.

ACA president Tom Canning said anecdotal evidence suggested that previous environmental schemes such as REPS and AEOS were beneficial to the environment and the countryside.

“Both farmers and farm advisers believe that both schemes did have positive effects but regrettably there was no significant measuring or recording completed, either in advance or during these successful programmes,” Canning said.

Baseline assessments

He said it was critical that baseline assessments were conducted before any future schemes in the next CAP.

“Without any baseline assessment, it will be very difficult to gauge the success of any environmental programmes on Irish farms in the next decade. The positive contributions by farmers must be measured and acknowledged.”

Canning also welcomed the commitment from the Department to train farm advisers as part of the survey pilot.

Advisers will receive habitat and biodiversity training as well as updated IT and mapping training which will be transferable to other schemes.

“The benefits of having training for our members will ensure that ACA, as the largest provider of farm advice in Ireland, can continue to support our large farmer client base with advisory services required for the current and future challenges of our sector,” Canning said.