Everything you need to know about the new agri-environment scheme
Further details of the next flagship agri-environmental program, which will replace GLAS in 2023, were announced by the Department of Agriculture last week.
The scheme, will be known as the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (‘ACRES’) and will represent a radical departure from previous schemes such as REPS, with stricter eligibility requirements and more onerous on-farm measures.
Any eligible farmer in any part of the country has the opportunity to participate in the program.
That ACRES will consist of two elements. The first is the “General” option, available at national level, and the second is the “Cooperative Project” option, available to farmers in specific high-priority geographical areas.
Here we describe some of the key elements that will impact farmers.
The program is open to all active farmers in the country.
To qualify for the higher payments, farmers must have land with higher environmental priorities.
Access to the program is determined by a ranking and selection process.
Priority access will be granted to organic farmers, farmers with priority assets and farmers who have agreed to carry out specific priority actions.
The list of proposed actions under the General ACRES are outlined here.
These are indicative and subject to change based on consultation and feedback from stakeholders.
Tier 1: Priority Environmental Assets (‘PEAs’)
All farmers with PEAs receive priority access to the program in each tranche.
If a farm contains any of the following Priority Environmental Assets (PEAs), this must be declared.
In addition, to qualify for Stage 1, the applicant must commit to carrying out all relevant mandatory actions where relevant to the PEA, according to the following list:
⬤ Private Natura (low input grassland scorecard action)
⬤ Community land (result-based community scorecard applies)
⬤ Goose and swan area (goose and swan action)
⬤ Priority Areas for Action (PAAs) identified by EPA (no mandatory actions, but actions that meet local needs and are identified in the Sustainable Agriculture Plan).
Registered organic farmers are eligible for priority access below this tier, however if they have PEAs on their farm the appropriate actions from the list above must be implemented.
Commitments made under the Organic Farming Scheme are not eligible for payments under the AECM; To qualify for payments, organic farmers must implement general AECM measures in line with the requirements set for other farmers.
Level 2: Priority environmental actions
If an applicant:
⬤ (whether beef, dairy or sheep) has a farm-wide stocking density of more than (›) 130 kg of manure nitrogen per hectare (ha) produced on the farm, or
⬤ has more than 30 hectares (ha) of arable crops, or
⬤ Has no priority environmental asset but whose land includes a vulnerable water area, s/he wishes to be considered under Tier 2, s/he must take at least one of the following mandatory actions:
⬤ Minimal tillage
⬤ Catch harvest
⬤ Winter fodder for birds (livestock farming only ›130 kg organic nitrogen per ha)
An applicant can also be considered under Level 2 if he/she undertakes at least one of the tree planting activities, i.e.:
⬤ Plant trees — in rows, groups or park landscapes
⬤ Plant trees in bank banks
⬤ Tree belt for ammonia removal in the yard.
Level 3: General Actions
These Tier 3 actions aim to address the achieved benefits in the areas of climate change, water quality and biodiversity.
They can be chosen in addition to any mandatory Tier 1 or Tier 2 promotions, or individually. [R] denotes rotational movements.
Measures suitable for arable land/interchangeable grassland
⬤ Winter bird seed (border or whole field) [R]
⬤ Unharvested grain headlands [R]
⬤ About winter stubble [R]
⬤ grass edges — Agronomic environmental management of fallow land Minimum tillage (Min-Till)/No tillage (No-Till) [R]
⬤ Catch harvest [R]
⬤ Brassica forage harvest [R]
Measures suitable for grassland
⬤ Low-input grassland (outcome-based)
⬤ grass edges — Grassland Multi-Species Ley (MSL) (Results Based)
Measures suitable for intensive grassland >130 kg organic N/ha
⬤ Ryegrass seed kit for birds [R]
⬤ Cultivation of intensive grassland next to a watercourse
⬤ Brassica forage stubble [R] (also on arable or mixed farms)
Field Delimitation Actions
⬤ hedge rejuvenation
⬤ Laying of hedge regeneration
⬤ Traditional drywall maintenance
⬤ Plant a new hedge tree
⬤ planting campaigns
⬤ Plant trees – in rows, groups or park landscapes
⬤ Plant trees on embankments
⬤ Tree belt for ammonia removal in the yard
⬤ Resource protection measures
⬤ bank buffer strips — Arable/Grassland Shore Buffer Zone — field/grassland
⬤ Low-input peat grassland
⬤ Measures to preserve heritage and genetic resources
⬤ Protection and care of archaeological monuments
⬤ Conservation of Rare Breeds (Results Based)
⬤ Planting a traditional orchard
⬤ barn owl box
Proposed policy actions under the collaborative AECM
⬤ Replanting bare areas
⬤ Peat drain blockage
⬤ Water retention measures
⬤ Soil banks and mounds
⬤ Provision of swaths/settling ponds
⬤ Flood management
⬤ Controlled burning
⬤ Grazed fuel breaks/firebreaks
⬤ Cut trips through brush
⬤ Installation of highland ponds
⬤ Provision of drinking points
⬤ Assessment of water pollution pathways
⬤ Community management
⬤ Delicate replenishment
⬤ Appropriate forest/forestry
⬤ Landslide management
⬤ Winter practices
⬤ Individual farm nitrate plan
⬤ Improved farm access
⬤ Regenerative farming methods
⬤ Pond system
⬤ Forest shrubs
⬤ Clearance and management of invasive species
⬤ Drywall maintenance
⬤ Preservation of traditional farm buildings
⬤ Protection of archaeological monuments
⬤ Safer nesting sites
⬤ Bird monitoring
⬤ Nest protection
⬤ Protection of high-carbon soils
A maximum payout of €7,000 is suggested
It is proposed that the maximum rate of payment according to the general ACRES is €7,000.
Farmers are free, together with their advisors, to select measures from the general list of available measures.
Average payments are expected to be in the order of €5,000 per year over the five year life of the program with a potential maximum of €7,000.
Expected uptake under the AECM General is estimated at 30,000 farmers over at least two tranches.
Average payments under the collaborative project option are expected to be in the order of €7,400 with a maximum potential of €10,000.
This includes payments for non-productive investments and landscape measures.
Farmers, together with their advisors, will decide what actions they can take to increase the score on their land and increase their payment levels.
Expected inclusion under the The ACRES Co-Operation includes an estimated 20,000 farmers in multiple tranches.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/schemes/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-new-agri-environment-scheme-41007402.html Everything you need to know about the new agri-environment scheme