Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

No leeway on May 17 deadline for the AEOS

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

There will be no extension of the closing date for the new Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS), senior Department of Agriculture officials have insisted.

Senior Department official, Michael O'Donovan, told those attending the first in a series of public information meetings on the AEOS that the May 17 deadline will not be changed or leeway give for late applications. More than 100 farmers attended the inaugural AEOS meeting in Cootehill, Co Cavan, last Thursday evening.

Mr O'Donovan accepted that the new €50m package was not ideal for farmers. He said the terms had been dictated by the EU Commission in what he described as "long and very difficult" negotiations.

"After seven months of hard slogging with the Commission this is the best we could come away with," Mr O'Donovan said.

There was some criticism of AEOS from the floor, with one farmer describing the measure as a "Mickey Mouse scheme" from which applicants would struggle to reach the maximum payment of €5,000.

However, Mr O'Donovan pointed out that the days were gone when schemes such as REPS provided a given payment on every hectare of land.

The Department official said the Commission was now intent on measuring the impact of specific actions and that farmers would only be paid for work carried out.

Department official Frank Macken said farmers should not carry out any work for the scheme until they have been accepted into it.

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Applicants are unlikely to be processed until the second half of the year, with the term for each farmer running until the end of 2015.

Farmers accepted in September will therefore be in AEOS for five years and four months.

Farmers leasing land for the scheme were told to take it up to the end of 2015 at least.

Five percent of scheme members will be subject to an inspection each year, the meeting was told, with the holdings to be inspected picked on a random basis.

Although specific grass varieties and grassland plants must be identified for the 'species-rich grassland' measure, Mr Macken maintained that would be able to complete the application themselves.

Applicants must identify at least five 'positive' indicator species in meadows, while 'negative' indicator species must also be identified.

Irish Independent