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Small farmers set to be big winners in new environmental pilot scheme


Payment rates for the new scheme have yet to be decided.

Payment rates for the new scheme have yet to be decided.

Payment rates for the new scheme have yet to be decided.

Small farmers are going to be the big winners from the new agri-environment pilot programme, the Farming Independent has learned.

It is understood the new scheme will see smaller farmers benefit as much as larger farmers, as landowners with 10ha will be able to participate fully in the various measures included in the pilot.

With talks continuing on the make-up, budget and expected participation of the pilot scheme, a spokesperson for the Department declined to comment directly on the matter.

They said full details would not be confirmed prior to the meeting with farming reps this week, adding: “Detailed conversations are continuing with the European Commission regarding all aspects of the pilot.”

Last week, the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue stressed to the Farming Independent that the new pilot is “not the new successor REPS, AEOS or GLAS” but is an initiative which will be used to better inform the approach to the new agri-
environmental scheme to replace GLAS in the new CAP.

The new pilot programme is a results-based scheme where farmers will be rewarded for carrying out actions that benefit the environment while rewarding those who are already making positive environmental impacts.

The pilot programme will run between now and the new CAP in 2023.

A meeting of farming stakeholders and the Department is set to take place this week, where further information will be provided.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack said he had noted Minister McConalogue’s observations that the new scheme was not intended to be a successor to REPs, AEOS, GLAS or any of the predecessor agri-environmental schemes but was a new initiative.

“But surely the point is that the new scheme was previously referred to and sold to farmers as a new ‘REPS’,” he said.

“To a certain extent, how it’s described doesn’t matter because the new scheme will have to address the exact same issue in terms of making it attractive for commercial farmers to participate.”


Commercial farmers

Mr McCormack said the scheme’s overall success will depend on getting the numbers of commercial farmers participating substantially up and that will depend on making payments under the scheme “attractive and compatible with commercial farming”.

IFA president Tim Cullinan said the experience with results-based schemes to date has been positive, but in general farmers participating in results-based schemes are also in GLAS, which gives them a base payment.

“There are several conditions beyond a farmer’s control such as weather that can have an impact on the results achieved which can have a negative effect on the payments farmers receive.

“What farmers need is a meaningful scheme, with a base payment of €10,000,” he said.

“If the Government want to live up to their promises, they must deliver this.”

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