Are there dates for cutting hay/silage/topping?

No, you can cut or top whenever you want. However, it is important to be mindful of the impact this may have on your score.

Can I spray my land?

There is no time frame for spraying, but you must be mindful of manufacturer’s instructions on best practice for application and adhere to set back from watercourses. Spraying can impact your score and boom spraying can kill off any positive indicators. The inappropriate use of sprays, for example spraying on boundary ditches or too close to watercourses, can also impact scores. We would recommend weed wiping/licking for a more targeted approach to spraying where appropriate.

Who can I appeal to if I don’t agree with the scores?

There is an appeals process outlined in the ACRES terms and conditions document, which is available online.

What actions can I take under the scheme and where do I find the list?

The list of non-productive investments (NPIs) and landscape actions is currently being developed and will be published by the Department of Agriculture.

Examples of actions include: fencing, cattle drinkers, culverts, hedgerow planting, riparian margins.

What will my payment be?

The scoring of your land must be completed before payments can be finalised and issued.

Result-based payments evaluate the quality of the habitat, and it is important to remember that the payment you receive in year one of the scheme is not the payment for the five years of the scheme.

You will have the opportunity to improve and increase your payment over the five years.

Also note that the results-based payment is a per hectare payment so not only will the score have an impact on your payment, the number of hectares you have in the scheme will also determine the overall payment.

When will I see my scores?

Your adviser can give you an indication of the scores you receive, but it will be necessary to carry out administrative checks before your final payment is issued.

You will receive information from the Department of Agriculture with the scores of the parcels along with any management advice that your adviser has recommended to help improve the scores.

Will I see my scores before the Department does?

Yes, if your adviser has an opportunity to discuss scores. There is a 5% inspection rate, as with all schemes, and scores can be subject to change based on these or other administration checks before payment is issued.

Why is some of my land in co-operation project areas and some of my other land not?

The co-operation areas are based on Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Areas (SPA) boundaries, as well as high status waterbodies.

I have good land that is not going to get a high payment. How can I get a payment from this programme?

While productive land may not have a high score, there are options through non-productive investments and landscape actions to help you to get a payment from the scheme.

When will I find out what my commonage scores are?

In the interest of fairness to all shareholders in a commonage, the project coordinators plan to meet commonage shareholders as a group to discuss the scoring and the actions that could be implemented on the commonage. This will be done after the Department has verified the scores for payment. This will be later in the year and all shareholders will be notified in advance of the meeting.

Mary Andrews is ACRES west Connacht project manager.