The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to provide more flexibility around the deadlines for Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) measures.

While IFA rural development chair John Curran welcomed the extension to submit soil sampling results and exemptions under tranche one of the scheme due to the weather, he added that this approach should be taken with other ACRES measures.

“With all the rain in recent months, it was near impossible to get out and take suitable soil samples for analysis, so the original May deadline would have been very difficult for farmers, planners and labs to achieve.

“The same forward thinking and flexibilities should apply now to other hard deadline measures, such as establishing wild bird cover or fencing grass margins/riparian zones within ACRES," he added.

Persistent adverse weather

“Because of persistent adverse weather conditions and/or heavy ground conditions, farmers haven’t been able to do the work and will be under pressure to meet the deadlines, particularly now with calving and lambing in full swing,” he said.

The chair added that extensions in these areas would ease pressure on farmers.

“[It would] also potentially avoid unnecessary land/biodiversity damage where farmers feel forced to get out and fence or plant or whatever, just to comply with ACRES.

“An improvement in environmental conditions is what ACRES was set up to achieve, so I’d be calling on the Minister and his officials to come out and provide flexibility to other measures too, sooner rather than later,” he said.

The Department of Agriculture announced it had extended the deadline for submitting soil sample results for ACRES tranche one participants from 15 May 2024 to 31 December 2024.

A circular sent to ACRES advisers highlighted that adverse weather in recent months has created difficult ground conditions, hampering the collection of suitable soil samples for analysis.