A Galway county councillor, who says that Connemara farmers have been left in limbo, is now calling on Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food, Brendan Smith TD, to reinstate REPS.
Fine Gael councillor Eileen Mannion said that Minister Smith invited submissions earlier this week on the new agri-environment scheme instead of reinstating REPS which is what farmers clearly want.
“Connemara farmers are outraged at the closure of REPS4 to future applicants and to those completing five year contracts. Most of Connemara is under SAC designation and the compensation farmers received was in the form of REPS payments. What are Connemara farmers to do now? Their farming activities are totally curtailed by SAC designations and no new compensation package has been introduced.
“There are also further proposed cuts to the Disadvantaged Area Payments in 2010. The Disadvantaged Area Payments have already been cut by 14 per cent in 2009. Connemara is defined by the Government as a ‘disadvantaged area’ but there is little evidence that the Government is doing anything to assist farmers in Connemara. The Government should be assisting Connemara farmers, instead it seems they are putting more and more obstacles in their way. Connemara needs people; people should be encouraged to live here not discouraged,” she said.
Cllr Mannion added that small farmers in disadvantaged areas such as Connemara are also designated Clar areas by the Government because of the population decline and should be exempted from any further cuts to the Disadvantaged Area Payments.
“There has to be a special case made for Connemara farmers. Farmers participating in REPS are protecting a priceless habitat for Europe. Farmers have been led to believe that as long as SAC designations would last they would get compensation.
“The further proposed cut in the Disadvantaged Area Payment and the closure of REPS4 will put a further strain on the economy as farmers will have to resort to social welfare payment to survive. It is time Minister Smith listened to the farmers and reinstate REPS instead of introducing new schemes which will involve more layers of bureaucracy,” said Cllr Mannion.