€1.6m fund for bioenergy crop planting
The planting of up to 1,400ha of miscanthus and willow will be supported by the 2012 Bioenergy Scheme, which was launched last week.
The €1.6m fund enables farmers to apply for grants of up to €1,300/ha to cover 50pc of the cost of establishment.
It had originally been anticipated within the industry that grant aid for just 600ha would be forthcoming this year.
However, the Department confirmed that the area to be supported would be more than double that figure.
Announcing next year's scheme, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney predicted a surge in demand for bioenergy crops once the proposed REFIT tariffs were passed by the Cabinet.
"The 2012 scheme will consolidate the progress made since 2007 in developing the energy crops sector in Ireland and has the potential to support 1,400 additional hectares in 2012," Mr Coveney said.
"I have decided to amend the terms and conditions of the scheme so that participants are no longer required to maintain the crop for seven years as a condition of grant aid.
"The removal of this condition should help to make the scheme more attractive to farmers without reducing their commitment to establishing and properly managing the crop once they make the planting investment."