The new €1.5 billion agri-environment scheme to kick in from next year, which up to now has been referred to as the Agri-Environment Climate Measure (AECM), has been given an official scheme name.

The official name of the measure will be the Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES).

It will replace the Green, Low-Carbon Agri Environmental Scheme (GLAS) when the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) begins in 2023.

However, the scheme – along with the entirety of Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan – is subject to official approval from the European Commission.

For that reason, details of the scheme are still subject to change.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has said that it is proposed that “all farmers” will have the opportunity to apply for ACRES. The targeted number of participants is 50,000.

There are two entry approaches for the scheme.

The ‘basic’ approach will be referred to the ‘ACRES General’ approach which will be available nationally (apart from certain high-priority areas), which will offer a range of both targeted and general measures.

Previously released details of the scheme indicate that this approach will target some 30,000 farmers and make a maximum payment per participant in the region of €7,000, with an expected average payment of €5,000.

The second, ‘advanced’ approach will be called ‘ACRES Co-operation’, which will be available to farmers in the high-priority geographical areas. Eight regions of the country have been defined as ‘co-operation project’ (CP) zones.

A map published by the department earlier this year outlined these eight areas.

They are: Burren; Donegal; East-Southeast; Midwest-Southern Uplands; North Connacht-Ulster; Northwest Connacht; South Mayo-Connemara; and West Cork-Kerry.

These areas have been identified has having particular environmental characteristics and farmers in those areas will engage in the new AECM through the co-operation approach.

It was previously announced that some 20,000 farmers would be targeted through this approach, with a maximum payment of €10,500 and an expected average payment of €7,000.

All farmers who currently apply under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) or the Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) from 2023 will have the opportunity to apply for ACRES, the department said.

Farmers will be able to check which ACRES approach they are eligible for by logging on to the Agfood portal from tomorrow (Wednesday, June 22).

A text-message system has also been set up by which farmers can text ‘DAFM ACRES’ followed by their herd identification (ID) number to 50124. The department will then send a return message indicating which approach they are eligible for (if the farmer is eligible for the co-operation approach, the department’s text will also include the CP zone the farmer is located in).

From tomorrow, Agfood will also have an ‘access agreement’ screen, which will allow ACRES advisors acting on behalf of their clients to sign up to facilitate the preparation of scheme applications.

This agreement will allow BPS data to be accessed for the purpose of ACRES.

In order to be considered an official ACRES advisor, a farm advisor must complete training. This is due to take place early next month.

The department has also announced that contracts have been awarded for the management of the eight CP zones, following a public procurement.

The aim of these ‘CP teams’ is to assist in the implementation and development of the scheme at local level.

The CP teams will now begin developing local action plans for their zones and will engage with farmers and advisors in their localities.

It is understood that the CP teams will include ecologists, hydrologists, ornithologists and project managers.

Speaking at the announcement of the scheme’s new name today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “The €9.8 billion CAP programme for the next five years is an ambitious statement by this government. It meets the commitment in the Programme for Government to design a flagship environmental scheme that is user friendly for farmers; will deliver broader environmental and biodiversity benefits; and aligns financial support with climate, forestry, and land use objectives.

“Furthermore, the allocation of €1.5 billion in the proposed draft CAP Strategic Plan for this scheme over the next CAP period illustrates the scale of the government’s commitment to deliver an ambitious and innovative agri-environment climate measure.”

Also speaking today, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said: “This is the highest amount of money ever committed by a government to a single agri-environmental scheme so it is great news to see ACRES come this far.

“Subject to the approval of the draft CAP Strategic Plan by the European Commission, my department is working towards commencement of ACRES contracts from January 1, 2023,” the minister added.