After months of delays and uncertainty, farmers have finally received assurances that the first payments of the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS ) are imminent. Applications for the scheme had been submitted since May 17 of last year and the payments were due for almost a year.
The delay had raised fears that money would never be received, however, the situation has been rectified and payment will be issued this month. The scheme was a direct replacement for REPS and the 8,400 farmers eligible for the initial bursary will receive an average of €3,800 each. A further 7,000 farmers have applied to join in 2011 and should soon find out if they have been included.
Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, squared the blame for the delay on administration issues and welcomed the overdue confirmation: “As with any new scheme, the initial administrative requirements are quite onerous and include processing applications and issuing approvals to all eligible applicants. Once this task was completed staff in my department devoted significant resources to finalising the required administrative checks. As this process has now been completed, I am delighted to announce that AEOS payments have now commenced and over €1.25 million has now been issued.
“This scheme puts environmentally-friendly farming to the forefront and recognises the vital role farmers play in delivering public goods for the benefit of all society. That is why, despite the ongoing budgetary pressures facing my department, I re-opened the Scheme this year. I am glad to say that the 7,000 farmers who applied to join AEOS in 2011 will shortly be informed whether they have been approved into the Scheme.”
Fine Gael TD for Galway West Sean Kyne was also heralded the announcement and said it will be of substantial benefit to local communities: “From my experience of the REPS scheme, the precursor to AEOS, the benefits to the farming community and the wider community in promoting environmentally friendly farming practices can not be overestimated. The financial supports provided under AEOS are vital for ensuring the continued success of local, community focused farms. I am hopeful that the Galway farmers who recently sought to join the AEOS this year will be successful in their applications.”