IFA President Tim Cullinan said that despite what the Government says, the new pilot agri-environment scheme bears little or no similarity to the original Rural Environmental Protection scheme (REPS).
“Attempts by the Government to equate this proposed new scheme to the old REPS is misleading and complete spin,” he said.
IFA National Rural Development Chairman Michael Biggins said, “The old REPS scheme was a whole farm scheme which paid farmers an area-based payment for carrying out environmental actions in accordance with a plan specific to the farm. The proposed pilot will be a ‘whole field’ approach. Farmers are to be scored on set criteria, mainly based on the existing quality of features, which will establish the 2021 payment,” he said.
The payment rates will be decided with reference to cost incurred and income foregone. It’s expected to be made up of a base payment, plus payments based on results.
The Programme for Government committed €1.5bn from carbon tax to a new REPS-2 Scheme. That was to be in addition to funding from CAP.
In Budget 2021, €79 million was allocated for new agri-environment and other farm support measures, which the new ‘REPS’ scheme will have to share with other schemes in 2021. Included in the €79m is €56m Pillar II CAP funds, with only €23 million coming from the carbon tax. This is a long way from the €1.5bn promised in the Programme for Government, he said
Michael Biggins said, “This proposed new scheme will not deliver for farmers and farmers can’t live on the premise of live horse and you’ll get grass. There are several conditions beyond a farmer’s control such as weather that can have an impact on the results achieved. What farmers need is a meaningful scheme which pays a base payment of €10,000. Payments based on results would need to be on top of this”.
“All farmers not currently in an agri-environment scheme, and who wish to participate, need to be accommodated,” he said.
IFA is meeting the Department today in relation to the scheme and we will be making a submission in response to the draft scheme.