Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

Department set to launch REPS replacement

Declan O'Brien

Speculation is mounting that an announcement on the new agri-environment package will be made over the next week.

Department of Agriculture officials are to meet with representatives of the farm organisations this Thursday to discuss the issue and it has been suggested that the scheme could be launched soon after.

While final details of the scheme to replace REPS are in the process of being cleared, Department officials refused to make any comment on the controversial initiative.

But it has emerged that the menu of measures available to farmers has been reduced from 20 to 16. One of the measures which failed to make the new scheme is mixed grazing, despite more than 3,000 farmers adopting it for REPS 4.

The list of those available includes water-trough installation, traditional hay meadows, species rich grasslands, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), tree planting, hedgerow planting, and trailing shoe use when spreading slurry.

Other available measures are stone-wall maintenance, rare breeds, linnet crops and conservation of wild birds.

However, farm bodies have complained that it is still unclear how much money will be paid for each specific measure or how many measures farmers can adopt.

The only figures confirmed by the Department are the overall budget of €50m, and the maximum payment to individual applicants of €5,000.

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IFA president John Bryan said the 10,000 farmers leaving REPS 3 before May expect Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith to deliver a meaningful new scheme, which delivers an average payment of at least €5,000.

Mr Bryan pointed out that with the middle of May deadline looming for the Single Farm Payment, the details of the new scheme must be put in front of farmers.

Meanwhile, IFA rural development chairman, Tom Turley, has slammed the slow delivery of REPS 4 payments.

He said 13,000 farmers have yet to be paid, with up to 60pc of applicants still waiting on payments in some counties.

Mr Turley called on Minister Smith to set a deadline of the first week in March to have all farmers paid.

Irish Independent