The ‘Co-operation Project’ (CP) aspect of the Agri-Environment Climate Measure (AECM) – for which farmers are eligible for payments up to €10,000 – “falls short” for young farmers, Macra na Feirme has said.

Last week, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine released a map showing which parts of the country would be catered for in this aspect of the AECM scheme – which will come into effect from 2023 as part of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

This map shows the eight specific zones wherein farmers will be able to join the scheme as part of the CPs and receive an expected average payment of €7,000 and a maximum payment of €10,000. Some 20,000 farmers will be able to avail of this.

These zones are mainly located in the west of the country.

On the other hand, the remaining 30,000 farmers – out of the 50,000 envisaged for the scheme – will be part of the ‘AECM General’, a more basic aspect of the scheme (though still with significant environmental actions required) where the expected average payment will be €5,000 and the maximum payment will be €7,000.

Today (Monday, February 14), Macra said it was disappointed with the scheme, saying it had called for a results-based agri-environmental scheme with measures “that are inclusive, accessible, progressive and complementary”.

“We are disappointed that future focused young farmers outside of the eligible areas have not been facilitated by the co-operation portion of the scheme,” Macra president John Keane stated.

“Farmers in almost the entire midlands of the country and the east have no opportunity to join the [CP aspect of the] scheme. Many young farmers have the ambition to meet the environmental targets.”

Keane highlighted that counties such as Westmeath, Longford, Kildare and Kilkenny have no areas included in the scheme.

“The question is why have these areas been left out of the scheme. From the map we can’t even tell if the BRIDE Project area is covered by this scheme,” Keane added, referring to the Biodiversity Regeneration in a Dairying Environment (BRIDE) Project, a European Innovation Partnership (EIP) based in the River Bride catchment of northeast Cork and west Waterford.

The Macra president said this was “a great project with demonstrated results over the past number of years which is also supported through an EIP”.

“Macra na Feirme has previously highlighted that as many farmers as possible must have the opportunity to enter this scheme along with other environmental schemes.

“Given the size of the area of the country that is not covered by the [CP zones], Minister [for Agriculture] Charlie McConalogue needs to find further funding to expand both measures,” Keane concluded.