The balance of payments for farmers in the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) 2023 are commencing this week, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has announced.

Payments will issue to 26,677 ACRES tranche one farmers across both the ACRES general and ACRES co-operation approaches.

As participants received either an advance payment last November or an interim payment of €4,000 or €5,000 in February and March of this year, the €21.1m in payments being announced this week are balancing payments.

Approximately 4,000 more farmers will be issued a balancing payment before the end of June, subject to clearance, the Minister said, adding that payments will continue to issue on a fortnightly basis as contracts are cleared for payment.

Information leaflets

In recognition of the large-scale results-based element of ACRES, which will be new for many participants, the Department, in conjunction with the ACRES co-operation project (CP) teams, has prepared a series of information leaflets to provide an overview of the way in which payments are calculated.

Following the issue of payments, each recipient will receive a letter detailing information about the scores that determined the level of their payment.

The Minister said: “I appreciate that scoring, and associated results-based payments, is a new approach for a lot of farmers. The publication of the leaflets, and correspondence that is being issued to all participants, will be an important resource to understand how individual payments were determined.”

The Department advised that there will be opportunities for ACRES CP participants to add value and increase the level of their annual payment over the lifetime of their contracts.

A farmer’s contract under ACRES is for five years and ACRES CP participants will be able to avail of non-productive investments (NPI) and landscape actions (LA) to improve environmental outcomes and to increase the score received and, ultimately, the level of payment. Decision letters in respect of the tranche one NPI application process are planned to issue before the end of this year and it is anticipated that the application window for LA will open early in 2025.

The Minister concluded: “I was pleased to have been able to secure places for all farmers that wanted to participate in ACRES tranche two, bringing the total number of farmers in the scheme to over 54,000.

"These applicants will shortly receive an information pack consisting of an approval summary, which will give them information on the actions approved under their contract, and a copy of the farmland plant identification book.

"This is an important guide for farmers to help identify a variety of plants that can have a beneficial effect on our biodiversity and the scoring of their land for the results-based payments.”