Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has said he is considering how to address the issue of farmers who will not have a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Pillar II agri-environment scheme payment next year.

The new Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES), due to come into effect from January, has been designed to cater for 50,000 farmers over the course of the next CAP to 2027.

However, pressure on farm advisors to draw up applications on behalf of their clients means that the scheme is likely to see only 30,000 entrants in its first year.

ACRES will replace the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS). However, as the latter scheme currently has some 43,000 participants, a sizeable number of farmers will not have access to a Pillar II agri-environment scheme next year.

“We’re looking at that issue. Our objective is to have as many as possible in ACRES. We have profiled for 30,000 families. That’s obviously what’s putting pressure on it, that application process at the moment,” Minister McConalogue said yesterday (Tuesday, October 4).

He added: “The bulk of that work is happening over the next couple of months, and that puts pressure on everyone. I’m conscious of the fact that farmers will be coming out of GLAS. We have around 43,000 [farmers] in GLAS at the moment, and that won’t be running next year.

“So I’m continuing to consider how we might be able to manage that, but in terms of the big priority, it’s making sure that ACRES is fully up and running and has as many as possible in the scheme.”

When the scheme eventually reaches 50,000 participants (which is expected to be from 2024) the scheme will be split between the higher-paying ACRES Co-operation stream, and the ACRES General stream, with 20,000 farmers in the former and 30,000 in the latter.

For next year, however, it is understood that there is no particular division envisaged between these streams, with place in each to be filled on the basis of demand.

The minister also confirmed a change to the rate of payment for one of the ACRES options.

The payment rate for the extensively grazed pasture action had originally been set at €200/ha, up to a maximum of 10ha, for a maximum payment of €2,000.

However, the change means that farmers can still be in line for €2,000, but on only 8ha, by upping the payment rate to €250/ha.