IFA Rural Development Chairman Michael Biggins said the new agri-environment and climate measure scheme proposed by the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue will exclude thousands of farmers.
“The proposed scheme will only have 50,000 farmers participating, which is wholly inadequate to meet likely demand, based on current number participating in GLAS and the number who applied for REAP,” he said.
The new environment scheme proposes that up to 20,000 farmers, in areas as identified by the Department as having higher environmental priorities, would receive a payment of up to €10,000, with an average payment of €7,400 – referred to as the co-operative project option.
The scheme proposes that the remaining 30,000 farmers will receive an average payment of €5,000, with a maximum payment of €7,000.
Michael Biggins said both the co-operative model and the general option are to include results-based measures. “Results-based is all very well, but there are several factors beyond a farmer’s control that can have an impact on the results. This can have a negative effect on payments. Results-based measures must be realistic and suitable for all sectors, include a large list of options, and provide for simple scoring which is easily defined. They must also be practical and achievable,” he said.
“This scheme will not deliver €10,000 per farmer or anywhere near it for the vast majority of farmers. What farmers need is a meaningful scheme open to all farmers who wish to apply, with a front-loaded payment up to €10,000. Results-based payments and payment for locally developed actions must be in addition to this front-loaded payment,” he said.
IFA Hill Committee Chairman Flor McCarthy said, “The co-operative project option, involving farmers in eight areas identified by the Dept must not be forced on farmers. They must be given the option to choose to participate in either approach and it’s unacceptable to set a maximum payment rate of €10,000. Funding for the Local Project Team involved in the running of the co-operative option part of the scheme must not come from CAP and leakage of funds must not be allowed. The Minister will be judged on the percentage of money going to farmers”.
Michael Biggins said to honour the Programme for Government commitment of a REPS-type scheme, the Minister must ensure the budget is adequate to provide meaningful payments for farmers and the scheme must be open to all who wish to participate.