IFA slates plan to limit AEOS scheme to 2,500 Natura farmers
Limiting future AEOS schemes to farmers within Natura areas will restrict membership to around 2,500 applicants, the IFA has warned.
The farm organisation said such a move would exclude most of the 14,000 farmers who will exit REPS 4 in the next two years.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has repeatedly said that any new AEOS would be restricted to Natura areas; these incorporate Special Areas of Conversation (SAC), National Heritage Areas (NHA) and Special Protection Areas (SPA), and cover 10pc of Ireland.
The IFA has claimed that €25m would cover the cost of opening an AEOS3 to fund 7,000 farmers at an average cost of €3,500 each.
This compares to €3,800 in AEOS1 and €3,200 in AEOS2. The farm body has calculated that this would not increase the overall budgetary spend required next year to cover the combined cost of REPS and AEOS payments.
However, Mr Coveney has insisted that directing funds towards AEOS would subsequently require cuts in spending elsewhere in the farm budget.