Farm Ireland

Friday 20 October 2017

AEOS: a case of more work for less cash?

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The new Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) has lived up to the 'REPS Lite' billing it attracted when the funding proposals for the new package were released last summer.

While the scheme has not been finalised and the details released to-date are only proposals rather than concrete measures, it does appear the AEOS will be nowhere near as attractive for farmers as its REPS predecessor.

Hill and commonage farmers have been badly hit, with payment reductions in the order of 70pc, compared to the REPS schemes that currently exist.

However, payments to the majority of farmers are likely to be significantly reduced under the new package.

Payment rates will be reduced from €242/ha to just €75/ha for farmers in a special area of conservation (SAC), a special protected area or a national heritage area, as well as for those in non-designated commonage areas.

The farm organisations have not given up on hopes that the €5,000 limit set by the Department of Agriculture for the new package will become an average rather than a maximum.

They have expressed anger at the detail of the plan, which they argue gives no recognition to the work more than 60,000 farmers have carried out on their holdings over the past two decades.

The low level of payments for the menu of measures is a real issue of concern. A case study carried out by the IFA found that farmers could undertake up to six measures without getting near a payment of €5,000.

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As one industry pundit commented, the scheme looked like being a case of more work for less money, for fewer farmers.

It must be remembered that the AEOS details, which were outlined to farm groups last week, are merely proposals at this stage.

Greater clarity and a degree of flexibility will be required before the full package is set in stone.

Irish Independent

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