AN Offaly Deputy has urged the new Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to announce clarify the details of the new Agri-Environment Options Scheme without delay.
“The new Agri-Environment Options Scheme which was conceived and developed by the last Government has just been announced. Following on from the very successful REPS, Irish farmers need to be encouraged and supported in their commitment to farming in an environmentally friendly way,” said Deputy Barry Cowen.
He said the Minister was due to announce details of the new Agri-Environment Options Scheme last but local farmers had to wait until now for the details and still there are several points which require clarification.
“Fianna Fáil in Government set aside enough funding so that 10,000 farmers could apply to take part in the scheme and receive a maximum payment of €5,000. This equates to approximately €50 million in funding in 2011. However, now the Minister is only offering farmers a maximum payment of €4,000 and has not confirmed how many farmers will be able to take part. Only €24 million is being given to the scheme this year at a payment level of €4,000 this would equate to only 6,000 applicants,” said Deputy Cowen.
He said the Minister must clarify how many farmers will be able to take part in the scheme and why only €4,000 will be awarded as the maximum payment so farmers can prepare the necessary plans and application.
“We all know that cashflow is one of the biggest challenges facing farmers so it is very unfair to reduce their expectations in this regard. The Scheme is 50/50 EU and Irish Government funded and the closing date is May 16 so the Minister must act quickly,” said Deputy Cowen.
He said in their last Budget the Fianna Fáil led Government committed to retaining the payment levels for all of the main agricultural schemes including this Agri-Environment Options Scheme.
“Fianna Fáil understands that farmers and farm families form the backbone of our rural communities and need to be supported financially. The Minister needs to act now in support of farmers,” concluded Deputy Cowen.