Independent view: Ending AEOS would be very short-sighted
The admission by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, that he is battling to save funding for the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) has come as a major shock.
The scheme was only launched last summer, is not even a year old, has still not had a cheque issued to a participant and now its very future is in doubt.
If you were to take a cold approach to farm payments you would have to admit that this scheme was vulnerable, given that it was strongly funded by the exchequer.
In addition, the payback for this sort of investment is hard to quantify in terms of real returns to the economy.
However, this is a very short-sighted and narrow view of what constitutes successful spending.
The recent EPA report on the improvement in groundwater quality and the quality of our rivers and lakes was headline news.
The performance of the farm sector was noted as a critical contributor to overall improvement.
This was attributed to regulations such as the Nitrates Directive, but it should equally be recognised that the massive farmer participation in REPS over the past 18 years has brought about a major improvement in the way they operate.