Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

AEOS start date delay 'unacceptable' says IFA

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Around 9,000 farmers who applied to enter the Agri Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) will have to wait until September to find out if they have been approved.

Despite calls from farm organisations for AEOS payments to start immediately, it appears payment could now be delayed until October.

AEOS approval letters will not be issued until September, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed.

A Department official said full details of all applications were being logged on a new computer system designed specially to analyse and process AEOS applications.

Extra staff resources had been diverted to this work to get it done as quickly as possible, the official added.

Following some further administrative checks, including an area crosscheck with the Integrated Administrative Control System (IACS) database, successful applicants will be notified that they have been approved into the scheme and will be given a starting date for their contracts.

"At present, the Department is aiming to issue letters of approval during September," the official confirmed.

IFA environment chairman Tom Turley described the delay as completely unacceptable.

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"Every month's delay in paying under the AEOS scheme is costing farmers €3m in potential payments," he said.

The €3m cost is based on 9,000 farmers who applied to the scheme and an average annual payment of around €4,000 per farmer.

"There was no legal block to prevent the Department of Agriculture paying out from the first of June," said Mr Turley. "This foot-dragging is unacceptable."

"Many farmers are already complying with the terms of the scheme and incurring costs to comply," said the IFA man.

Meanwhile, Department of Agriculture staff are currently preparing a response to technical queries from the European Commission on Ireland's proposed amendments to the AEOS scheme.

Ireland has proposed to double the level of payment on NATURA areas from €75/ha to €150/ha and increase the level of nitrogen application allowed on species-rich grassland.

Mr Turley called for clarification on these issues as soon as possible, to prevent farmers incurring further unnecessary costs.

If the higher NATURA payments are approved, some farmers will not need to take additional AEOS measures to reach the maximum annual payment of €5,000/applicant.

Irish Independent