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AEOS places to go to farmers with conservation area

Farmers who do not have a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Area (SPA) on their land are expected to lose out on places in the watered-down AEOS scheme.

Demand for AEOS places is likely to outstrip the number available by 2:1, with some 15,000 farmers expected to apply.

With the budget slashed from €50m to €25m and a €1,000 reduction in the maximum payment per farmer, it looks increasingly likely that demand from SAC and SPA farmers could be enough to account for all available places.

At a maximum payment of €4,000 per farmer, the €25m budget for 2011 would only allow 6,250 farmers into the scheme this year, but not every farmer will reach the maximum payment.

Agricultural consultants estimate that the average payment per farmer in 2011 will be closer to €3,100-3,500 per farmer, with 7,000-8,000 farmers entering the scheme.

Given that there are more than 20,000 farmers with SACs on their land, the chances of a farmer securing a place in the AEOS without an SAC or SPA designation are extremely slim.

The farm organisations have described the scaled-back 2011 AEOS scheme as having serious shortcomings.


ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said the maximum payment of €4,000 would make participation in the scheme a marginal exercise at best, especially when costs were taken into account.

He added that the decision to cut funding and average payments put a question mark over the ability of the new government to deliver on the potential of the Food Harvest 2020 report.

He said the AEOS announcement reiterated the reality that efforts to bail out the banks were "extracting too high a cost" when we see the negative impact on productive, export lead sectors.

"Farmers will see this decision as prioritising failed banks over sustainable farms," he said.

Speaking after a meeting with Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney on Wednesday night, IFA president John Bryan insisted the minister should re-examine the scheme and look at ways to increase the number of farmers who can qualify at last year's rate of payment.

Mr Bryan described the minister's reversal of a budget decision as simply unacceptable.

Meanwhile, ICMSA deputy president John Comer warned that Ireland could lose out in future because of the minister's reductions and limitations if European funding was directed towards schemes with environmental dimensions.

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