Farm organisations have welcomed today’s (Wednesday, March 1) announcement by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue that all valid applications for the Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) scheme will be accepted.

Over 46,000 applications were made for ACRES, despite funding for only 30,000 places in Tranche 1 of the scheme being made available under Budget 2023.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said that the decision will bring relief to many farm families that were concerned that they would miss out on an agri-environmental payment.

“The department has made the right decision here,” IFA president Tim Cullinan said.

“It would have sent a very negative signal if farmers had expressed an interest in the scheme and then found themselves locked out.”

Cullinan said the association raised the issue with the minister “at every opportunity” when it became apparent that there was such interest in the scheme.

“We’ve been pushing for this for some time now given the importance of agri-environment schemes to so many farm families, particularly those in the vulnerable sectors, to keep going,” IFA Rural Development chair Michael Biggins added.

However, he also said that any other complications or potential delays must now be avoided.

“It’s vital too that anybody looking to get into Tranche 2 is accommodated,” he said.

Other farm organisations

Meanwhile, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has also welcomed today’s announcement of the extra places in ACRES.

Rural Development chair Tim Farrell said: “The ACRES scheme is about achieving all our environmental goals from protecting biodiversity to reaching our climate action targets.

“It made no sense to deny farmers who are ready and eager to tackle these challenges the opportunity to do so.

“ICSA made repeated calls for the inclusion of all applicants and today’s confirmation that all valid applications will be accepted is indeed welcome.

“This move means that there will now be some 46,000 farmers participating the scheme rather than the scheme being capped at 30,000 participants,” Farrell added.

“These numbers illustrate the willingness of Irish farmers to deliver on environmental and climate action goals and gives lie to commentary that farmers are unwilling to adapt or disinterested in the challenges we all face.”

Farrell said this announcement also removed the worry many farmers had of losing the money they paid for the application process.

“Applying for the scheme cost some farmers over €600 with many fearing this money would be lost if their applications were unsuccessful. It is a relief that farmers will not now be left out of pocket,” he said.