Dept set to launch the AEOS
THE controversial Agricultural Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) is set to be launched this week, despite serious opposition from farmer organisations.
Last ditch efforts by farmer representatives to appeal for changes in the AEOS scheme were rejected by Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith on Thursday.
Talks between the Minister and farm groups centred on securing approval from Brussels to any changes in the scheme.
It is understood that Department of Agriculture officials warned that any changes made to the scheme now would result in delays of up to five months before the scheme could be opened.
The potential loss of income for farmers by such a lengthy delay meant that Minister Smith insisted on pressing ahead with the existing AEOS format.
The REPS replacement scheme, which will see payments to farmers in Natura 2000 and commonage areas cut by up to 70pc, will open for farmer applications from May 17.
However, it is understood that the farm organisations will continue their campaign to have the AEOS scheme overhauled and changes approved by Brussels after farmers sign up.
Described as flawed and unworkable by farmer representatives, the rural environment scheme will be capped at 10,000 applicants and individual payments will be limited to a maximum of €5,000 per year.