Caulfieldhits out at rules for the AEOS
Fears mount that average farmers won't gain access
The new Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) is a recipe for disaster for many farmers, according to Seamus Boland CEO of Irish Rural Link (IRL).
Mr Boland claimed the €50m budget allocated for the environmental scheme would not be drawn down completely by farmers and vital EU funds will be returned to Brussels as a consequence.
Addressing the IRL's national conference in Killala, Co Mayo, on Friday last, Mr Boland pointed out that the AEOS would only deliver payments to farmers when approved works are completed and receipts for the works are furnished.
He said the time lag involved in this arrangement would mean that only well-off farmers would access the scheme.
Mr Boland pointed out that while the old REPs scheme was directly connected to the completion of a plan of environmental works, it was generally recognised as a vital income stream for farmers.
"The reality is that REPS, which closed last year because of the Department's cutbacks, supplemented the low income of small farmers and small holders."
Poor take-up of the new AEOS was evidence that the scheme was unwieldy and unworkable, according to Mr Boland.
He told delegates that, as the closing date for receipt of applications loomed (the closing date was yesterday), the number of applications submitted to the Department was far below the 10,000 target.