Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

Advisers call for changes to AEOS application form

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Changes to the application process for the new Agri- Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) are being sought by farm advisers.

The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) has called for a simple AEOS application form to be accepted, with further documentation to be submitted at a later date.

Farm advisers will not have enough time to deal with the number of AEOS applications expected, the association has warned.

The group has called for an extension to the closing date of May 17 to cater for farmers who wish to enter the environmental scheme.

"There are simply not enough hours in the day to complete applications for all the farmers involved," warned Pat Minnock, president of the Agricultural Advisers Association (ACA).

"Our planners are working around the clock but we are calling for an extension to the closing date at least until May 31.

"We are also calling for a simple form, such as that used for REPS 4 in 2008, to be accepted.

"Supporting documentation such as maps, environmental management plans and commonage information could be submitted later."

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Less than four weeks remain for farmers to submit applications to the AEOS scheme.

The ACA president warned that farmers were not familiar with the scheme and planners were spending several hours explaining the detail to each individual.

As a result, planners say they will not have sufficient time to get out on farms to assess swards for suitability or prepare management plans.

The ACA president has also called for farmers to be allowed to amend applications after the closing date, adding that flexibility was key to the scheme.

Mr Minnock added that several aspects of the scheme were causing concern.

"Under the rules, a farmer who sets a parcel of land under green cover after harvest cannot claim the min-till measure on the same parcel the following spring," he said.

"The Department [of Agriculture] says a farmer cannot claim two measures on the same plot, despite the fact that min-till would have an additive environmental effect on the plot."

Nonetheless, the ACA is encouraging farmers to enter the scheme if it suits them.

"In the current financial situation, farmers cannot ignore a potential source of income," said Mr Minnock.

Meanwhile, Department officials have sought clearance from Brussels to allow farmers spread 30 units of nitrogen per hectare on species rich grassland.

Efforts are also being made to increase the payment for NATURA areas from €75/ha to €150/ha.

The IFA has also called for hill farmers to be granted access to both the National Parks and Wildlife Scheme and the AEOS scheme on different land parcels.

Irish Independent