Discussions relating to the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) are being dominated by anticipation for more details on the interim payment announced by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.

Participants in Tranche I of ACRES also need to ensure that they have carried out training before the extended deadline of the end of February 2024.

Training courses taking place are limited and, as such, anyone who has still not completed training needs to act fast.

The Department of Agriculture granted a dispensation to allow approved ACRES planners to “exceptionally schedule ACRES training courses for January and February 2024”.

This was subject to a planner submitting a project plan of how training would be delivered for all their clients still to complete training.

There is a possibility of the Department granting approval on a case-by-case basis to allow a limited number of training courses to take place in March 2024. This is viewed as a last resort, however, and those requiring training should act immediately.

Soil sampling

Another significant deadline coming down the line is the submission of valid soil sample results or soil sample exemption forms on the ACRES system by 15 May 2024.

The soil sampling concerns non-commonage lands declared on the applicant’s 2023 BISS application (owned/leased/rented).

Commonage lands cannot receive or be allocated chemical nitrogen or phosphorus in ACRES and, as such, the terms and conditions state that there is no requirement to sample such lands.

Lands not in receipt of applied chemical or organic fertiliser, such as mountain lands or rough grazing for example, may be exempt from soil sampling and in these cases a declaration outlining why these lands have not been sampled must be submitted by an approved ACRES adviser.

Only soil samples taken on or after 1 January 2022 are deemed eligible for Tranche I participants. At least one soil sample must be taken for every 5ha of land up to 40ha.

The terms and conditions advise that recommendations from soil sampling results should be implemented by the ACRES participant, following a discussion with their adviser.

Tranche II

Meanwhile, there has been no correspondence received by upwards of 9,000 farmers who applied to ACRES under Tranche II regarding the success of their application.

There are only 4,000 places available, according to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, meaning marking and selection criteria has come in to play.

The Department had previously said that farmers would be notified regarding their application in January 2024.

Reports indicate that an answer will need to be forthcoming soon as ACRES scheme data must be included in an applicant’s Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) application.