The new ACRES agri-environment scheme still leaves farmers baffled as to how it will reward those who want to go the extra mile for environmental objectives, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) rural development chair Tim Farrell has said.
There is a lack of ambition in the scheme to reward farmers, Farrell said.
"There doesn’t seem to be much innovation in what has been announced to convince farmers that this is a worthwhile improvement on GLAS," he said.
Farrell maintains that the new scheme is a "rehash of GLAS" which was marked by a lot of actions which were too costly to benefit the farmer.
Bet the house
"The Minister has bet the house on the ACRES co-operation scheme which has a higher maximum payment but this is confined to eight limited regions which means that the majority of land in the country will not be eligible and some counties will have no land eligible at all."
It is disappointing, he added, that at a time where the EU Green Deal is centre stage, the new agri-environment scheme brings less benefits to farmers who want to go the extra mile, than REPS did twenty years ago.
Rewards for planting trees, creating or upgrading habitats, planting areas of pollinators, regenerative farming and improving the visual amenity of rural areas, were among the ICSA's CAP proposals.
"It is still possible for the Minister to encompass some of the ICSA proposals but it must be done on a worthwhile financial basis.
"Farmers who participate must be better off than those who don’t, and this must be on a realistic basis to take account of the value of a farmer’s time," he said.
Unless the value of a farmer’s time, including management and administration, is factored into the agri-environment scheme, they would be better off looking at off-farm income opportunities at a time where jobs were never so plentiful, Farrell argued.
Irish Grain Growers Group
The lack of discussion in relation to Pillar 2 funding at the CAP Reform Stakeholder meetings over the past couple of years, is disappointing The Irish Grain Growers Group (IGGG).
"We have continually highlighted imbalance in Pillar 2 funding especially in relation to this new ACRES scheme.
"We cannot comprehend why payment is limited to €7,000 per individual tillage farmer applicant," a spokesperson from the group said.
The spokesperson said that the tillage sector has excellent carbon credentials and its chemical fertiliser usage efficiencies are far superior to other sectors.
"With the current food security issues where we are importing Russian grain to feed stock, it is unfathomable that every effort is not made to promote the Irish tillage sector.
"The least that should have been expected is equal payments to those that are entering the cooperative model in ACRES," they said.
IGGG rejects the current proposed payment rate for arable margins versus grassland margins and argue that the rates must be revisited before the scheme is officially opened.
"We have not received a satisfactory answer from Department of Agriculture officials why they decided on the figures they did.
"The insufficient answer that it costs more to erect a permanent fence for grassland margins, in our opinion, leaves tillage farmers at a distinct financial disadvantage in this new scheme over a five-year period," he added.