The Department of Agriculture has confirmed to the Irish Farmers Journal that approval letters concerning Non-Productive Investments (NPIs) applications under the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) will not issue to ACRES Co-operation participants until the second half of 2024.

A spokesperson for the Department said the priority at present is processing 2023 scorecard data and ACRES Tranche II applications. It said that scorecard data for 2023 continues to be processed as a priority in the context of preparing balancing ACRES payments to issue in June 2024.

It said “In particular, scorecard results must be linked to BISS 2023 eligible hectare data in order to inform payment calculations. For example, where multiple scorecards have been assigned to a single Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) parcel, a weighted average score must be established. Similarly, where a scorecard area doesn’t match precisely the BISS eligible hectare, areas must be adjusted to avoid over payment. All of this work needs to be completed before the issuing of the 2023 scorecard results”.

This suggests that it will be some time yet before scorecard information for 2023 is available to participants and advisers.

New processing systems

The Department also told the Irish Farmers Journal that it is developing systems which will “process all aspects of the application for NPIs, including the screening outcome”. It says this is taking place in parallel to work by ACRES Co-operation teams on the screening of just under 44,000 NPI actions applied for by approximately 4,500 applicants.

“The final decision in respect to each NPI application will be communicated in writing to participants – it is important to note in this regard that farmers cannot commence works on these NPIs until the relevant approval letters have been issued.

“It is expected that approval letters will issue to farmers in the second half of the year, as the Department’s focus in the short term remains on the processing of ACRES payments, as well as on the approval of Tranche II applications.”