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Independent.ie

Saturday 21 October 2017

Collective schemes to feature under new CAP environmental package

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Projects involving a number of neighbouring farmers could be a feature of agri-environmental schemes under the new CAP package.

A new focus on co-operation in the European Commission regulations on Pillar 2 funding could see farmers working collectively to provide 'landscape' scale benefits to the environment, instead of individual farmers working in isolation.

This view was expressed by Trinity College professor Alan Matthews at the Teagasc Agri Environment conference on Thursday.

Speaking to the Farming Independent, the Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy, said the changing regulations mean agri-environmental schemes could move towards group schemes.

"It would allow a move away from the patchwork quilt effect that we have currently where one in five farmers might be helping to create or protect a habitat to where an entire tract of land could be protected or improved by farmers working together," said Prof Matthews.

However, sources in the IFA suggested that co-operative type agri-environment schemes would only be workable between farmers sharing a commonage.

"Collective schemes may have some limited impact but it would be mainly commonage areas," an IFA source said.

UPTAKE

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"Uptake in any scheme depends on the measures they involve and the payments. Both the schemes and the payments have to be attractive to farmers."

A survey by Teagasc's Mary Ryan, presented at Thursday's conference, found that 28pc of farmers who have never taken part in either REPS or AEOS said they did not join the schemes because they would have had to make too many management changes.

A further 17pc said the planning for the schemes cost too much and 11pc said the scheme payments were not high enough to convince them to join.

Meanwhile, the IFA is planning a national rally next week to push the Government into committing as much money as possible to national co-financing under Pillar 2 of the new CAP.

IFA president John Bryan said that the Government needed to commit to 50:50 national financing in order to match the €313m allocated to Ireland by Europe and secure a total annual allocation of €660m.

With a crowd of 1,000 being mooted for the rally in the Mullingar Park Hotel next Tuesday, November 19, many of the farmers travelling are expected to be those who are leaving REPS at the end of 2013 and have no alternative scheme to join until 2015.

Some 13,000 farmers are due to leave REPS 4 by the end of this year and will lose an average of €5,800 in farm income.

Jim Higgins, MEP for the midlands and northwest said the 'bridging year' of 2014 without any REPS or AEOS scheme would mean a loss of €25m to Irish farmers.

"This is detrimental to the Irish environment and agricultural industry," he said.

"It's easy to say that funding will be available in 2015, but many farmers simply will not be able to make it through 2014."

Irish Independent