ACRES has had a fraught few months, lurching from the furore over only 4,000 places in tranche two to the delay in processing payments.

It all seems a long way from the promise of a “new REPS”, but that’s not surprising, for that promise was revealed in these very pages on 1 June 2020.

For context, the country was in the throes of the first COVID-19 lockdown, people picked up that paper while out doing their 5k walk in the glorious sunshine, or on the weekly run for groceries.

The current Government hadn’t even been formed at the time – Michael Creed was still the caretaker Minister for Agriculture. The “new REPS” leaked out of the ongoing programme for government talks. That all seems like a world ago now, and yet less than half the farmers have been paid from this supposed crock of gold.

The following month, Barry Cowen, in his one big interview as agriculture minister, again within these pages, confirmed what had been speculated.

“There is a huge commitment for a €1.5bn package for REPS. I want to reiterate that commitment”.

There would be “no gap for those for whom the GLAS scheme comes to an end next year”.

Of course, it took two years and two ministers to deliver the new scheme, with GLAS being rolled over to fill the gap. Some people spent seven years in GLAS.

In a way, you’d have to feel sorry for current Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue. The expectation among farmers was always hard to match, and the long lead-in only heightened those expectations.


Even when he finds solutions, he gets criticism. The decision to make an “on-account” payment for farmers means despite the chaos in processing ACRES plans, money will hit farmers’ bank accounts, but it’s not without drawbacks.

Firstly, some farmers are likely to get paid more than they will end up being due, as they won’t get the score they hoped for from the scheme’s evaluation. That money will be clawed back – always a deeply unpopular move. And secondly, farmers are grumbling that if an advance payment without final scheme approval can be made for ACRES, why could that not be done for last year’s BISS, CRISS and eco schemes?

There actually is a simple explanation to that one. EU rules preclude payment from Brussels’ funds prior to full scheme approval.

In this case, the minister and his Department have found the funds from within Exchequer funding – remember, ACRES is being largely funded from €1.5bn harvested from the carbon tax.

It’s hard to win for losing.