Mayo Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has welcomed indications from the secretary general of the Department of Agriculture Tom Moran that the Agri-Environment Options Scheme may be reopened this year. Mr Moran made the comments to the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture last week, just weeks after the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney admitted that he is not considering reopening the scheme. Deputy Calleary said: “There was much anger and upset among thousands of farmers in Mayo and across the west last month when Minister Coveney said there would be no new AEOS scheme this year. It will come as a huge relief to them if the Minister rows back on this, as indicated now by the secretary general of his Department.
“However the backlog in payments from 2010 and 2011 remains of huge concern and must be sorted as a matter of priority. Tom Moran has confirmed that just under half of the AEOS applications in 2011 have been paid. A total of 3,395 out of 6,895 applications received in 2011 are outstanding. In addition to this, 636 applications from 2010 are also still outstanding. These protracted delays simply cannot be tolerated. Thousands of farmers who are depending on this State support have been left in serious difficulty for months on end. I am urging Minister Coveney to start taking an active interest in ensuring these outstanding payments are made as a matter of urgency. I am also calling on the Minister to commit to reopening AEOS this year. Farmers here in Mayo who have recently come off REPS 3 made plans based on the reasonable assumption that they could join AEOS this year. They need some degree of certainty about their financial future. Given the massive under-spend in AEOS/REPS in 2011, surely the funds will be available for payments this year. If the Minister is serious about supporting smaller farmers in this region and helping them to stay in business, he will have no hesitation in publicly committing to a new AEOS this year.”