Pillar II

Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) is a key climate measure designed to provide for long-term environmental improvement via participation by farmers. It builds on the Conditionality and the Eco Scheme. ACRES aims to contribute significantly to achieving improved biodiversity, climate, air and water quality outcomes. These will be achieved through two approaches under the scheme:

  • an ACRES General approach offering a range of measures for individual farmers (both targeted and general); and
  • a Co-operation Project approach, available to farmers in defined high priority geographical areas, who opt to undertake measures, as well as bespoke farm, landscape and river catchment measures. Farmers participating in this approach will have the assistance of a Local Cooperation Project (CP) Team, to assist with implementation of the scheme at local level.

In eligible former may participate in the scheme. They will be required to address priority issues such as water source and priority habitats on their farms. Payments will be based both on prescribed measures at a fixed rate of payment and results-based measures.

Additional bespoke farm landscape measures may be implemented with the assistance of the cooperation project team at local level. This will support a landscape approach in these areas for the management and restoration of priority habitats/species carbon storage water quality and biodiversity to improve land management. It may tackle problems facing landscape such as flooding mountain fires landslides management of commonage invasive species predator control.

Reflecting the climate requirements there is a provision for improved water table management significant treeplanting measures. Each farmers farm sustainability plan will include field and desk assessment for action suitability to ensure the right actions taken in the right place.

Farmers who choose to participate in ACRES will have one agri-environment climate measure contract only. Results-based approaches will be used, where appropriate, and support for non-productive investments will be provided when necessary to help improve habitat scores.

The scheme will be open to all active farmers in the country. To qualify for the higher payments, farmers must have land with higher environmental priorities.

Access to the scheme will be determined through a ranking and selection process, and priority access will be provided to organic farmers, farmers with priority assets and farmers who have agreed to undertake specific priority actions.

The list of proposed actions under the General ACRES and Co-operation Project is outlined in detail in Section 5 of the CAP Strategic Plan.

An expected 50,000 farmers may take up this intervention. Payment rates will vary in line with the actions selected by the farmer.

It is proposed that the maximum payment rate under the General ACRES will be €7,300. It will be open to farmers together with their advisors to select actions from the general list of actions available. Average payments are expected to be in the region of €5,000 per annum over the five-year period of the scheme with the potential to reach a maximum of €7,300. Expected uptake under the General ACRES is estimated to be 30,000 farmers over at least two tranches.

Average payments under the Cooperation Project approach are expected to be in the region of €7,000, with the potential for a maximum of €10,500. This includes payments for non-productive investments and landscape actions. Farmers, together with their advisors, will decide what actions they may take to increase the score on their lands to increase their payment levels. Expected uptake under the Co-Operation approach is estimated to be 20,000 farmers over a number of tranches.

Agri-environment Climate Training

This measure is designed to provide training to farmers who participate in ACRES.

It is proposed that two training courses will be provided to farmers participating in the ACRES. The first course is mandatory and is to be undertaken during the first full year of participation in ACRES and will build on the training provided to farmers in the transitional period.

Proposed Eligibility Conditions/Selection Criteria

Farmers who have been approved for participation in the ACRES. Providers must be registered professional advisors with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This entails

  • Having a relevant National Framework of Qualifications Level 8 qualification
  • Having received the specific training for the Agri-Environment Scheme delivered by the Department for advisors
  • Being registered with the Farm Advisory

The payment will cover the cost of training for the farmer (in respect of his/her costs for attendance at the training including their time and travel costs) and the trainer (based on the cost associated with delivery and preparation time, course materials and delivery costs). The total indicative financial allocation for this intervention is €21m for the period 2023-2027.

Straw Incorporation Measure (SIM)

The purpose of the intervention is to encourage tillage farmers to increase soil organic carbon levels by chopping and incorporating straw from cereal crops and oilseed rape. This will sequester carbon in tillage soils, thereby reducing GHG emissions. The incorporation of straw will also have positive impact on soil biology, soil workability and increasing organic matter will improve drought resilience by increasing water holding This will further improve the environmental sustainability of the tillage sector.

Support will be by way of an annual area-based payment per hectare. The support payment will compensate the farmer for the additional cost of the chopping, spreading and incorporation of straw into the soil. The total indicative financial allocation for this intervention is €50m for the period 2023-2027. It is proposed that the per hectare payment rate will be €250 per hectare for cereal crops (barley, wheat, oats, rye) and €150 per hectare for oilseed rape given the lower market value for oilseed rape straw

Organic Farmer Scheme

The organic farming scheme is designed to support farmers wish to convert from conventional farming to organic farming systems. The general structure and implementation of the existing Organic Farming Scheme will be continued.

Support will be provided annually and will be provided as an area-based payment over a minimum contract period of 5 years (2 years in conversion, followed by maintenance), with increased payment per hectare and some targeted incentives aimed at areas that are deemed to be in deficit.

Proposed Eligibility Conditions/Selection Criteria

As in the previous Organic Farming Scheme a series of core requirements define basic eligibility. Key conditions include:

  • The requirement of a minimum farm area of 3 hectares, except for horticultural (including fruit) producers where the minimum farm area is 1 hectare.
  • Registration with one of the Organic Control Bodies, possession of a valid organic licence and registration with the Department.
  • Completion of FETAC level 5 Course in Organic Farming

Proposed Support rates/financial allocation

Farmers converting land to organic farming will receive a higher payment for the initial maximum two-year conversion period with a maintenance payment thereafter. The rate of aid will vary across farming sectors.

In line with the strategy for the Development of the Organic Sector 2019-2025, higher rates will be payable for horticultural operations (including fruit), for tillage operations, and for dairy operations, all of which are strongly in deficit. Support is based on the additional costs incurred and income foregone that farming to organic standards incurs, plus a transaction cost when compared to a conventional farmer of similar land area, intensity of production and efficiency.

A participation payment will also be paid to every organic farmer each year to cover administrative and training costs. This support for the duration of the farmers contract will help to increase the participation of smaller operators where the financial burden of setting up has been flagged as a barrier to entry.

The total indicative financial allocation for this intervention is €256m for the period 2023-2027. This allocation aims to increase the area under organics to the reach the target 7.5% of UAA (337,500 ha) in 2027 as outlined in Food Vision 2030.

Areas Facing Natural Constraints (ANC)

The intervention design is based on the identification of three mainland categories of land and one offshore island category of land based on differing levels of identified constraints (as per the 2019 redesignation). The categorisation of land ensures that financial support is targeted towards those with the highest levels of natural and other specific constraints.

Eligible beneficiaries will be required to:

  • Meet the definition of an ‘active farmer’
  • Occupy and farm a minimum of three hectares an agricultural area of forage and arable land, situated in a designated area.
  • Have a holding that meets the minimum stocking levels (grazing requirement). This requirement is set at

0.10 livestock units per hectare. This will be based on the previous year’s stocking rate, to align with the active farmer check and Eco Scheme Extensive Livestock Production practice. Applicants can also select to use the current year for the stocking rate requirement. Where justified on environmental grounds, a lower requirement may apply.

Note: Tillage lands, which are payable in designated areas under the scheme will not be subject to or taken into account in the calculation of stocking requirements.

Proposed Support rates/financial allocation

The proposed support rates under this intervention are as follows (unchanged from 2022):

  • Category 1 Land: €148 on the first 12 eligible hectares or part thereof, and € 112 per hectare on remaining hectares up to a maximum of 34 hectares.
  • Category 2 Land: €111 on the first 10 eligible hectares or part thereof, and €104 per hectare on remaining hectares up to a maximum of 30 hectares.
  • Category 3 Land: €93 on the first 8 eligible hectares or part thereof, and €88.25 per hectare on remaining hectares up to a maximum of 30 hectares.
  • Offshore island land: €250 for the first 20 eligible hectares, €170 for eligible hectares 20 to 34, and €70 for eligible hectares 34-40.

The annual indicative financial allocation for this intervention is €250m, amounting to a total indicative financial allocation of €1,250m for the period 2023-2027.

Early Stage support for Producer Organisations

The aim of this intervention is to provide support to groups of producers wishing to be recognised as Producer Organisations (POs) in the beef, sheep, potato, tillage, plant amenity and fruit and vegetable sectors

In order to be eligible an applicant must:

  • be set up on the initiative of producers and be led by producers;
  • have a minimum of 20 members (beef and sheep sectors); or have a minimum of 5 members (other sectors)
  • be constituted in line with the requirements under the relevant articles of the EU Common Market Organisation Regulation
  • be registered as a legal entity with the Companies Registration Office.
  • for the fruit and vegetable PO applicants, have a combined value of marketed production (VMP) of more than €2.5million
  • for the tillage, plant amenity and potato PO applicants, have a combined VMP of more than €1.5million.

Proposed Support rates/financial allocation

The total maximum allocation over the course of the programme to each Producer Organisation is €33,000 to be paid over three years:

  • Year 1 – €3,000 support for advisory costs, €10,000 in administrative function support
  • Year 2 – €10,000 in administrative function support
  • Year 3 – €10,000 in administrative function support

It is intended that an estimated target of 45 new groups be established in the first three years, with a total indicative financial allocation of €1.485m for the period 2023-2027.


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