Farm Ireland

Friday 24 November 2017

Caulfieldhits out at rules for the AEOS

Fears mount that average farmers won't gain access

Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

The new Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) is a recipe for disaster for many farmers, according to Seamus Boland CEO of Irish Rural Link (IRL).

Mr Boland claimed the €50m budget allocated for the environmental scheme would not be drawn down completely by farmers and vital EU funds will be returned to Brussels as a consequence.

Addressing the IRL's national conference in Killala, Co Mayo, on Friday last, Mr Boland pointed out that the AEOS would only deliver payments to farmers when approved works are completed and receipts for the works are furnished.

He said the time lag involved in this arrangement would mean that only well-off farmers would access the scheme.

Mr Boland pointed out that while the old REPs scheme was directly connected to the completion of a plan of environmental works, it was generally recognised as a vital income stream for farmers.

"The reality is that REPS, which closed last year because of the Department's cutbacks, supplemented the low income of small farmers and small holders."

Poor take-up of the new AEOS was evidence that the scheme was unwieldy and unworkable, according to Mr Boland.

He told delegates that, as the closing date for receipt of applications loomed (the closing date was yesterday), the number of applications submitted to the Department was far below the 10,000 target.

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"Much of the €50m allocation will be lost and instead returned to the EU and exchequer at a time rural areas need every cent of investment they can get."

Aside from the financial loss to individual farmers and to the exchequer, Mr Boland said there would be a high environmental cost to be paid for the poor take-up of the scheme.

"The low take-up by farmers will be detrimental to the long-term conservation of flora, fauna and water courses."

Irish Independent

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