The Government’s decision to close REPS 4 and accept no further applications will be the death knell of farming in Mayo according to Independent councillor Michael Holmes.
Cllr Holmes attended a county executive meeting of Mayo IFA on Wednesday night at which representatives were told the scheme would be closed to applications from yesterday (Thursday ).
The IFA president Padraig Walshe has also described the move as a devastating blow for up to 34,000 mainly livestock farmers who will finish their environmental plans over the next three years.
He criticised Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith for abolishing a very significant support. “Recent Teagasc national farm income figures show many farmers are dependent on this scheme which adds greatly to the rural economy and environment,” he said.
Mr Walshe said that farmers in REPS 3 are not being allowed to join the REPS 4 scheme, the support of which is vital for the viability of livestock farms. “Minister Smith must immediately come forward with a new meaningful scheme for these farmers, which ensures that the net benefit of REPS to farm income is maintained,” he said.
Cllr Holmes explained that REPS (Rural Environmental Protection Scheme ) is an EU funded scheme for farmers to enable them to bring their farms up to acceptable EU standards. He estimates this cut will affect thousands of farmers in Mayo. According to Cllr Holmes a representative from a State agency - Teagasc - for the first time ever admitted on local radio this week that farmers producing beef, lamb, and milk are selling them below cost. This has forced farmers to depend on subsidies, but they also are being taken away.
The three subsidies available to farmers in Mayo are REPS, the Single Farm Payment, and the Area Based Payment. In October’s budget the Area Based Payment, which amounts to approximately €4,500, has been cut by 25 per cent and it looks likely that this payment will be cut again this year.
“This is one of the most contentious issues I have come across in my 30 years involved in farming organisations,” Cllr Holmes told the Mayo Advertiser. “It is not rocket science to see that farmers cannot continue farming,” he added. “Farmers will be in a total loss making situation at a time when farm incomes are at their lowest level in almost a decade and tens of thousands of farm families are struggling to survive in Ireland