The Chairman of the ICMSA Farm Services and Environment Committee, Patrick Rohan, has called on Minister Coveney to immediately announce his position on the provision of a new AEOS scheme to ensure that the 23,000 farmers whose REPS 3 contracts have expired are provided with a suitable environmental scheme.
Mr Rohan pointed out that many of these farmers have been in REPS since its inception in 1994 and are committed to environmental farming practices. ICMSA believes that it is crucial adequate funding is provided for a new AEOS scheme and that all farmers are given an opportunity to avail of this scheme.
Mr Rohan stated that there is only 12 weeks left to the May Single Farm Payment deadline which has also been the deadline for AEOS applications, and that farmers must be given adequate time to assess the scheme’s suitability for their enterprise.
He said that farmers contemplating application must have an opportunity to work with planners - if necessary – because there have been considerable problems due to rushed AEOS applications that have resulted in significant delays to payments.
“Both farmers and the environment will benefit greatly from the introduction of a properly funded AEOS scheme and it’s nearly as important that the Minister dispel the uncertainty and confusion around his intentions. It is incumbent upon the Minister to state his intentions regarding the AEOS scheme that all parties concerned are convinced is both desirable and necessary,” concluded the well known Annascaul farmer advocate.
Meanwhile IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy has said that farmers who left REPS 3 in 2011 must have a meaningful AEOS 3 scheme available to them well in advance of this year’s SFP deadline of mid-May.
Speaking in advance of a meeting tomorrow with the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, Flor McCarthy said that a scheme must be made available to 10,000 farmers with the maximum payment restored to AEOS 1 levels of €5,000. At this level of payment, the scheme is meaningful and worthwhile for farmers to join.
“13,000 farmers left REPS 3 in 2011 and many of these farmers must be accommodated in a new enhanced scheme,” he said.
McCarthy has again expressed frustration at the on-going delays in making AEOS 1 and 2 payments. Progress, he said, is too slow and he called for AEOS 1 full year payments to 8,500 farmers to be paid out. So far, about 40% have been paid fully. On AEOS 2, IFA has been told by the Department that the 4 month part payment for 2011 will commence in April next.
On REPS 4, about 3,000 farmers still remain to be paid, out of a total of 30,000 farmers. IFA is urging that all payments are completed without delay.
Concluding, Flor McCarthy reminded farmers who have received query letters from the Department of Agriculture on either AEOS or REPS 4, to respond immediately.