Farmers to take €6,000 income hit as minister shelves eco-friendly scheme
SOME 13,000 farmers will take an income hit of nearly €6,000 each next year due to the decision not to operate a new environmental farming scheme next year.
As the Ploughing Championships opened in Ratheniska, Co Laois, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney confirmed yesterday there would be no new agri-environmental scheme in 2014 to cater for the 13,000 farmers leaving the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) in coming weeks. A massive crowd of 81,000 people attended yesterday, up 56pc on the 52,000 who attended last year's opening day in New Ross, Co Wexford.
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) warned that this would cut many low-earning farmers' incomes in half even though many worked in conservation zones with stringent environmental restrictions.
Average earnings from the scheme were €5,800 a year for eco-friendly measures such as planting hedgerows or keeping a lower number of animals.
Mr Coveney acknowledged that many farmers currently coming out of REPS relied on those payments for "a significant part of their income".
He said that a comprehensive new EU environmental scheme would be put in place from 2015 as part of reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy.
"Farmers will get real security from that in terms of knowing what a comprehensive environmental scheme looks like for the next five years as opposed to trying to put a makeshift scheme in place for next week," he said.
IFA rural chairman Flor McCarthy demanded a "lifeline" for the 13,000 farmers exiting REPS to extend the scheme for another year.