New climate program criticized for offering ‘limited opportunities’ to dairy farmers

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Commercial family farms will be excluded from the government’s new €1.5 billion Agriculture and Rural Environment (Acres) scheme which is expected to be open to 50,000 applications later this year, farm leaders have warned.

Representatives slammed “limited opportunities” to access the program, which will have a “general approach” and a “cooperative approach” for inside and outside high-priority geographies, during a meeting with officials. Agriculture Department officials on Friday.

It follows calls for the existing agri-environment scheme, Glas, to be extended until 2023 to facilitate better access to the successor scheme.

ICMSA Vice President Denis Drennan said: “When you add up the numbers coming from Glas, Reap, and you look at the change with people not spreading fertilizer and the demand for eco- programs, there might be 100,000 farmers who want to get into Acres, but there are only 50,000 spaces.

“The average farmer will get €5,000/year, but if you have to hand over €800/€900/€1,000 to your adviser and a large part of your payment is for lost expenses and income, which will stay with the farmer?The tiered system will eliminate most families from dairy farms.Even if they come in, opportunities will be limited.

“They gave a range of 29 different measurements, but very few are applicable to a family dairy farm because they use all their land.

“The dairy farmer, who is supposed to be responsible for all this damage to the environment, must be promoted in the system at several levels, with practical options beneficial for water quality and biodiversity and a payment reflecting the load administrative attached thereto.”

ICSA chairman for rural development Tim Farrell said very few general scheme farmers will receive the maximum €7,300/year, adding that Acres will struggle to provide €5,000 to commercial farmers medium size before costs.

“The ministry lives in a different world, delivering a less valuable agenda than Reps, AEOS and Glas at a time when the EU and the government claim the environment is the be-all and end-all of agricultural policy,” said said Mr. Farrell. .

“For farmers on the general scheme, the main options are low-input grasslands [results-based, payment ranging from €250-€400/ha] up to 10ha maximum, and extensively grazed pastures [€200/ha] up to 10ha maximum.

“This means that a farmer would have to allocate up to 50 acres to farming very extensively and in the end would probably get a payment of just over €5,000. Most farmers will not be able to sacrifice 50 acres, so many will get closer to €3,000.

“The Minister [Charlie McConalogue] hides in the sand if he thinks that is attractive in the current inflationary environment.

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