Farmers reject AEOS as applications down 50pc
Farmers have rejected the watered-down Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) for this year, agricultural advisers have indicated.
Teagasc has confirmed that it processed just 1,000 AEOS applications this year, compared to around 2,500 for last year's scheme, while the Agricultural Consultants' Association (ACA) has calculated a 50-66pc drop in applications through some of its members.
High capital costs, a €1,000 reduction in the maximum payment to €4,000 and a shorter contract term of three years instead of five years have been blamed for turning farmers off this year's AEOS.
The fact that up to 9,200 farmers are still awaiting payment for last year has also dealt a major blow to its credibility.
Limerick-based agricultural consultant David Walsh said he advised two-thirds of his clients not to enter AEOS this year because it simply did not suit their farming system.
"Using no fertiliser is not an option for many farmers," he said. He added that penalties under the scheme were totally disproportionate and excessive compared to the rewards for complying with certain measures.
He cited the example of a €1,000 payment for maintaining a three hectare hay meadow but a fine of €2,000 could be imposed if the hay was cut before a specified date.
Consultant Breain Carroll submitted 25 AEOS plans this year, down from 45. He claimed there was total apathy among farmers towards the revised scheme.