The Department of Agriculture is aiming to have 30,000 farmers enrolled in the new Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) in 2023, short of the 50,000 target originally announced.

As a result, up to 20,000 farmers could be locked out of an agri-environment scheme next year.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has told the Irish Farmers Journal that he is aware that gap years for schemes are a challenge and that there will be pressure on advisers and farmers this autumn to get applications into the scheme.

He would not be drawn on whether another scheme is being worked on for farmers who are locked out next year, but did say his Department is “reflecting on” these gap years.

Largest ever scheme

On the scheme itself, he said it is the largest ever agri-environment scheme run by the Department.

Some €81m of the carbon tax will go towards funding the scheme next year, with a total budget of €200m.

“Using a habitats-based approach, delivered through both prescription and results-based actions, ACRES will contribute to improving biodiversity, climate, air and water quality outcomes,” he said.

Just under €18m will be used for locally-led environmental schemes.

Minister of State Pippa Hackett said: “This will fund a large-scale water quality scheme on farms, as well as a new call for new EIPs in Q1 2023 on biodiversity, climate, rural environment, and farm safety.”