Farm Ireland

Monday 19 February 2018

ICSA claims new AEOS payments are out of touch

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Payments to farmers under the proposed new Agricultural Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) are out of touch with reality, the ICSA has claimed.

The payment for maintaining a dry stonewall, set at €50 per 100m by Department of Agriculture officials, is not realistic when compared to the actual cost of employing someone to carry out the works, the organisation has insisted.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said the scheme does not offer sufficient incentives for farmers to participate.

Mr Gilmartin was speaking following a meeting with Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith where the ICSA delegation lobbied for a more meaningful and relevant agri-environment scheme.

"We are also very disappointed that planners with environmental qualifications will be needed for farmers on designated areas, despite the fact that it had been indicated that the costs of planners would have been eliminated from the new scheme," he said.

He insisted that there was no way that farmers could sustain planner costs for a scheme that wasn't delivering sufficient returns.

It is understood Minister Smith is due to meet other farm organisations in the coming week.

Meanwhile, IFA rural development committee chairman Tom Turley said that the proposed AEOS was unworkable unless major changes were made to the specifications used to implement the scheme.

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Mr Turley said that the way the scheme is currently set out by the Department of Agriculture, the €50m allocated will not be used up. This, he said, would be unacceptable as at least two thirds of the financial allocation arises from deductions to the Single Farm Payment through modulation.

The IFA has called for a series of changes to the AEOS which they claim will make it more acceptable to farmers.

The IFA proposals include retention of the whole farm payment in lowland and non-natural areas. This payment should be set at €75/ha up to a maximum of 55ha.

On top of this payment, the options combined with the base payment should allow the farmer to reach a payment of an average of €5,000.

The flat payment would recognise previous work under the scheme and ensure the requirements of nutrient management, including lime usage, are maintained.

In the case of commonages and SACs, payment should be available at a rate of €150/ha up to a maximum of 55ha. This is instead of the €75/ha payment where a farmer would require 66ha to get €5,000.

Farmers who finish in REPS 3 after mid-May should be allowed to join the scheme later in the year, with payments related to the number of months they are in the scheme this year, followed on by a five-year annual payment.

Irish Independent