IFA Rural Development Chairman Michael Biggins said the higher payment rates proposed for the new Agri-Environment and Climate Measure (AECM) scheme in the CAP Strategic Plan must be available to all farmers who participate.
The new environment scheme proposes that up to 20,000 farmers, in eight areas which have been identified as having particular environmental characteristics and were identified on maps released by the Department, would receive a payment of up to €10,500, with an average payment of €7,400.
It’s proposed that farmers in these eight areas would participate in the new Scheme through co-operative project teams. The remaining 30,000 farmers would participate in a general option and will receive a maximum payment of approximate €7,300, with an average payment of €5,000.
Michael Biggins said, “The payment rate of €10,500 per farmer must not be limited to 20,000 farmers in the co-operative areas identified by the Dept and it cannot include non-productive investments required as part of the scheme”.
“IFA welcomes that prescription-based measures offer a large list of options, as we requested. However, it’s critical that it would recognise existing features and continue to enhance earlier schemes. Results-based measures can have a major negative impact on payments. They must be realistic; suitable for the relevant sectors; and provide for simple scoring which is easily defined. They must also be practical and achievable,” he said.
“The proposal is to open the scheme over a number of tranches and it is proposed to limit the number of farmers participating in the scheme to 50,000. This will not meet demand, based on current number participating in GLAS and the number who applied for REAP,” he said.
Michael Biggins said, “There is a real issue of transition for farmers completing GLAS and the commencement of AECM which will be caused by the tranche approach to the opening of the scheme. Providing for a reduced number of farmers to be accepted in 2023 is simply unacceptable. In light of the importance of GLAS/AECM payments to farmers’ incomes, it is essential that all applicants under all tranches be accepted and paid in 2023, or that GLAS contracts are extended to bridge the gap.”
IFA Hill Committee Chairman Caillin Conneely said, “The co-operative project option 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 €10,500 which includes non-productive investments. 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 cannot be allowed”.
Michael Biggins said to honour the Programme for Government commitment of a REPS-type scheme, the Minister must ensure the budget for the scheme is adequate to ensure payments of €10,500 are available to all farmers in both the general and the co-operative options. The scheme must be open to all farmers who wish to participate.