AEOS future in doubt amid €36m budget cut
Up to 10,000 farmers finishing in REPS 3 may have no scheme to enter next year
Fears are mounting that up to 10,000 farmers leaving REPS 3 next year could be locked out of any environmental scheme after cuts to Department of Agriculture funding were revealed.
The National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, unveiled by the Government this week, included a massive €35.7m cut in the Department of Agriculture's budget for REPS and the Agri Environmental Options Scheme (AEOS) next year.
The remaining €294m in the Department's budget will only be enough to cover the 9,000 farmers who signed up to the new AEOS this year and the 30,000 farmers in REPS 4.
That leaves around 10,000 farmers who are scheduled to leave REPS 3 next year, and who expected to move into AEOS immediately, without any environmental scheme to take part in.
Environmental schemes have become a critical part of farm income on many farms and the prospect of not having a new scheme to apply for is a daunting one for farmers.
When asked about the issue, the Department said that no decisions had been taken about either "the levels of participation in various schemes, including AEOS, or the payment rates that will apply".
However, it did hint strongly that any money available would be channelled to active farmers, saying: "The plan confirms that there will be a focus on streamlining programmes.
"Options to be considered include prioritisation of financial support in schemes to active farmers."