Minister Urged to Address Ineligibility of Young Farmers for Environmental Schemes
The Minister for Agriland, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has been called upon to address the issue of young farmers being ineligible to participate in environmental schemes, including the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES). Independent Kerry TD, Michael Healy-Rae, expressed concern that young farmers would be “locked out” of ACRES and posed a parliamentary question to Minister McConalogue regarding the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM) response to this issue.
Minister McConalogue explained that one of the eligibility requirements for farmers to participate in Tranche 2 of ACRES is the submission of a Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application for 2022. Additionally, all lands must be declared in the applicant’s 2023 Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) application and subsequent years of participation. Therefore, farmers without a BPS 2022 or BISS 2023 application would not be eligible for Tranche 2 of ACRES. The application process for Tranche 2 of ACRES was published last month, and farmers and their ACRES advisors can now begin preparatory work, such as submitting an Expression of Interest and preparing a farm sustainability plan. The final step of submitting the application will be available shortly.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD for Mayo, Alan Dillon, also raised the issue of young farmers and ACRES in the Dáil. Deputy Dillon highlighted the “significant barriers” faced by young farmers who are environmentally conscious and possess the skills to transition their farming practices towards more eco-friendly methods. He noted that the failure of DAFM to grant concessions for farmers under the age of 40 with their own herd number is an obstacle for young farmers. As a result, they are unable to participate in environmental schemes like ACRES 2024. Deputy Dillon emphasized that this exclusion of young farmers, particularly those in their twenties and thirties, from such programs for extended periods without a clear timeline for their inclusion is regrettable. He questioned Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on how Ireland can reduce emissions without allowing young farmers, who represent the future of the agriculture sector, to participate in vital environmental schemes.
In response, the Taoiseach expressed his uncertainty regarding the restrictions in place and stated that he would make inquiries with Minister McConalogue. He emphasized the importance of encouraging young farmers and acknowledged their role in the future of the agriculture sector.
It is crucial for the Minister for Agriland, Food and the Marine to address the issue of young farmers’ ineligibility for environmental schemes. The exclusion of these young farmers, who are environmentally conscious and possess the necessary skills, hinders the progress towards more sustainable farming practices. By granting concessions and providing a clear timeline for their inclusion, the government can ensure that young farmers are actively involved in initiatives such as ACRES, contributing to the reduction of emissions and the overall sustainability of the agriculture sector.