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Coveney reopens eco payment worth €4,000

UP to 6,000 farmers will be able to apply for a newly reopened environmental scheme that will be worth up to €4,000 each.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has announced that the Agri Environment Options Scheme is to be reopened to new applicants with €20m available for those who commit to ecofriendly farming measures.

The scheme was closed last year and farmers feared it would remain so.

Conservation

A maximum payment of €4,000 will apply to individual farmers but Mr Coveney said that, as average payments in the past had generally been lower than that, he expected up to 6,000 farmers to take part this year.

"Farmers will be paid to undertake identifiable and verifiable environmental measures from a menu of options," he said.

This would deliver real benefits in the areas of bio-diversity, water quality and climate change.

IFA president John Bryan welcomed the reopening of the scheme, particularly as it was available to farmers both inside and outside protected conservation zones.

This scheme would be crucial to low-income farmers who had been hard hit by the summer weather, he said.

The IFA estimates the total bill for extra feed this winter will come in at €400m, even higher than earlier estimates.

Teagasc research showed farmers had 20pc less feed than they needed and the IFA said making up the shortfall would cost them an extra €250m, while higher prices for feed caused by drought in the US would add another €150m.

Mr Bryan said this would put the squeeze on farm incomes this year.

He said he was meeting the chief executives of all banks to highlight the grave situation and urge them to provide extra cashflow to tide farmers over the winter.

Irish Independent