An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland – this week expressed serious concern at Minister Coveney’s recent announcement that there will be no rollover of REPS and no new AEOS entrants in 2014. The Minister claimed that this would achieve “national and European savings of about €25 million”. However, An Taisce believes that these savings mean that thousands of farmers implementing environmentally beneficial schemes and sustainable forms of agriculture will lose, in some cases, half of their total farm income in 2014.
David Garvey, Agri-environment Assistant with An Taisce, commented “Ending REPS and closing the door on new entrants to AEOS will make it very difficult for farmers to begin or continue sustainable modes of agriculture. This will result in many farmers being left in financial limbo for the coming year. The Minister should demonstrate his commitment to sustainable agriculture by transferring 15 per cent of his CAP budget into the rural development pot, to fund new agri-environment schemes. This 12 month wait for a new AEOS is unprecedented. The 13,000 farmers coming out of REPS will receive no support to continue with sustainable farming practices. They will feel increased pressure to turn to more intensive farming practices and to abandon environmentally valuable land” he said.
Garvey went on to say that, “Further, of the 9,600 farmers who applied to AEOS 3 in early 2013, just 6,000 were approved. The remaining farmers will have to wait until at least 2015 for any new schemes to open. By and large farmers on good land in the South and East are doing reasonably well,” Mr. Garvey added. “It is farmers in the North and West that need support, particularly those farming environmentally sensitive land. An AEOS scheme is the best means to deliver money to the farmers that need it most.”