IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney to stop the foot-dragging on AEOS 3 and to immediately accept as many as possible of the 9,600 farmers who have applied for the scheme in late 2012.
Mr McCarthy said with around 4,600 Natura farmers being the top priority under the selection criteria that leaves a further 5,000 left in a very uncertain situation. While farmers who have left the REPS scheme are the next priority group nevertheless a high percentage are likely to fall into this category and must be allowed into the scheme. Many of these farmers have seen their income drastically reduced since their REPS plan finished combined with the serious losses incurred as a result of the recent fodder crisis. It is vital that they become eligible for the AEOS 3 scheme.
The IFA Rural Development Chairman said that it is now also important that the commencement date of plans is set at the 1st May as already many of these farmers have been without agri-environment payments for some time. When farmers are told that they are eligible for AEOS 3, they will at least know they are in an agri-environment scheme for the next 5 years and 8 months. The scheme is worth €20m and given the serious income crisis on farms any payment that farmers qualify for is welcome.
Mr McCarthy said the Minister must recognise the importance of direct payments as has been highlighted in the Teagasc 2012 National Farm Survey. Schemes such as AEOS and REPS play a vital role in supporting farm income on mainly drystock farms and support must be forthcoming in the future under the agri-environmental element of the Rural Development Pillar II funding.