An extension should be granted to the upcoming Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) deadline this Wednesday (6 December), according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).

This deadline is for non-productive investments (NPIs) under tranche one of the scheme.

The deadline of 6 December should be pushed out to allow farmers to find out their habitat score and therefore make informed decisions as to which NPIs to undertake, INHFA vice-president John Joe Fitzgerald said.

“This is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse, with farmers being left in the dark with regard to their habitat score, but still expected to take on board actions which are designed to improve these habitats,” said Fitzgerald.

Processing in spring

It is the INHFA’s understanding, the vice-president said, that these applications will not be processed until next spring, by which time farmers will expect to have their habitat scores.

“On this basis, it is entirely reasonable to look for an extension and, if given, then those farmers that have already applied should be given the opportunity to amend their applications, especially if different actions can deliver improved results,” he said.

As of Sunday 3 December, 7,000 farmers had applied for NPIs - half of those in tranche one of the co-operation option, according to the INHFA.

“This will still be less than half of those in ACRES co-operation and I definitely believe if there was more time, then we would get more applicants, especially if they had their habitat score,” said Fitzgerald.

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