Following confirmation today (Wednesday, October 19) that the Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) is now open for applications, one farm organisation has called for more time for applications to be completed.

In response to the opening of the scheme, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) said that the timeframe for farmers to complete applications is too short and should be extended.

Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has confirmed the closing date for applicants will be Monday, November 21.

Tim Farrell, the association’s rural development chairperson, said this evening: “The scheme aims to attract 30,000 farm families into the first tranche of the scheme, but it will not be possible for that volume of applications to be prepared in such a short time.

“The application process is a time consuming one, with farmers having to engage a planner to survey their farms and devise meaningful farm sustainability plans,” Farrell added.

He continued: “Given the importance of the scheme it makes very little sense to spend so little time planning the actions that farmers will have to complete over the lifetime of the next CAP [Common Agricultural Policy].”

Farrell called for farmers and their planners to be given sufficient time to get these plans right.

The ICSA rural develop chairperson said that the ICSA has been liaising with farmer consultants around the country on this issue.

According to the farm organisation, these consultants “are adamant that the applications window is far too narrow”.

“The consensus is that a revised deadline will have to be agreed, and the sooner this is done the better. We simply cannot afford to alienate farmers and planners from engaging with the scheme,” Farrell commented.

Applications for the €1.5 billion scheme can only be submitted on behalf of farmers by an approved agricultural advisor.

Budget 2023 provided funding for 30,000 farmers to enter the first tranche of the scheme.

The results-based agri-environmental scheme is divided into two streams.

The ACRES general approach is available to farmers nationally and has a maximum annual payment of up to €7,311.

Farmers located in defined ‘high priority’ areas will be able to apply for the ACRES co-operation approach where they could receive up to €10,500 in a given year.