The Burren Programme has been “a huge success for farmers and the environment”, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

But he has reconfirmed it will be replaced by the ACRES Co-operation Project (CP) Burren Aran.

Minister Charlie McConalogue has been under pressure recently to review the decision to replace the Burren Programme.

Following a meeting today (Tuesday, November 22) between Minister McConalogue and the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Pippa Hackett, with farmers and representatives from Co. Clare, there was no change in either minister’s position in relation to the programme.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICMSA) had previously called on Minister McConalogue to review what it described as the “disastrous” decision to replace the Burren Programme.

The agriculture minister said after the meeting – where the ACRES (CP) Burren Aran was discussed – that it had been “a huge success for farmers and the environment”.

But he believed it was “time to ramp up our ambitions and significantly increase the number of farmers in the results-based payment model”.

Minister McConalogue said:

Building on the success of that model in the Burren Programme, it is important to offer that opportunity to a far greater number of farmers so that a much larger land area is scored, with the ultimate goal of achieving better outcomes for biodiversity, climate and water quality.”

This will likely be seen as a bitter blow by many of the 300 farmers who are currently participating in the Burren Programme.

Concerns had been raised that farmers in the region could be paid less for impementing environmental measures under the ACRES scheme compared to the current payments delivered under the Burren Programme, which started in its current form in 2016.

Minister Hackett also said today that the Burren Programme had “been a fantastic example of what a well-designed, locally led agri-environmental scheme can deliver”.

“Our aim with ACRES is to upscale our environmental ambition significantly. 1,300 farmers in the Burren Aran region will be able to participate in ACRES CP, which is an increase of over 300% on the current number of approximately 300 farmers working in the Burren Programme”.

She said the increase in the number of farmers participating should result in an increase in land under ACRES CP. 

“It is expected that 40,000 hectares will be assessed and scored for nature under ACRES CP, up from 11,000 hectares under the Burren Programme,” Minister Hackett added.

According to both ministers officials from DAFM have been working with the Burren CP group to develop “a bespoke bonus payment structure” which they believe will reward farmers to “maintain their land at a high environmental level”.