Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has announced that the new national agri-environment scheme in the next CAP will be known as the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES).
The new €1.5bn scheme, which was cited as a new REPS by the Government, is the first to be delivered under the new CAP and the Minister says it will target 50,000 farm families.
The scheme will hold its overall €1.5bn budget over the lifetime of the CAP.
The scheme’s detail still awaits approval from the European Commission.
Like its predecessor GLAS, all farmers will have the opportunity to apply for ACRES. However, there are two entry approaches in the proposed new scheme.
These include an ACRES general approach, which will be available nationally and offers a range of both targeted and general payment measures.
The second way for a farmer to partake in ACRES will be through the co-operation approach. This avenue is available to farmers in defined high priority geographical areas.
This is made up of eight areas in the country which have been defined by a cross-departmental working group as having particular environmental characteristics and farmers in those areas may engage in the new scheme through co-operation project teams.
All farmers who apply under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will have the opportunity to apply for ACRES, with both approaches offering attractive rates of payments, with the approach for which they are eligible determined by the location of their land.
The Minister said his Department is working towards the commencement of ACRES contracts from 1 January 2023.
‘Sustainable methods of farming’
Launching the scheme name, an Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that “adapting to more sustainable methods of farming is key for our national environmental and rural economy objectives”.
He said the “flagship” ACRES scheme is “user friendly for farmers, will deliver broader environmental and biodiversity benefits and aligns financial support with climate, forestry and land use objectives”.
Minister McConalogue described the scheme launch as a “really exciting day for farm families and those who are interested in biodiversity”.
“This is the highest amount of money ever committed by a Government to a single agri-environmental scheme, so it is great news to see ACRES come this far,” he said.
‘No time to lose’
Ministers of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett and Martin Heydon also both welcomed the launch of the scheme.
When describing the scheme, Minister Hackett said she was “thinking in particular of organics, where participating farmers will be offered priority tier one entry to the ACRES scheme”.
“We have no time to lose in tackling this climate and biodiversity emergency and innovative investments like ACRES will be a key tool for us and for farmers in achieving this,” she said.
Minister Martin Heydon said the Government’s commitment to farmers who are working to improve their environmental impact is “being delivered through large-scale investments like this ACRES”.
He encouraged all farmers to examine the opportunities that this scheme presents and said the “increased payments levels for higher scores will be an incentive for better management for the betterment of the environment”.