Independent councillor Michael Holmes has called on the Minister for Agriculture to ensure that payments under the Agri-Environmental Options Scheme are made immediately to Mayo farmers participating in the scheme.
According to Holmes, farmers are struggling to manage their farm finances as they wait many months to receive these payments. “I have met a large number of farmers who have been awaiting AEOS and REPS payments for many months,” he said. “They are understandably very frustrated by the situation, particularly as they have been fully compliant with the demands of their environmental management schemes. They have not been furnished with any clear explanation for the undue delay, nor a concrete date when they can expect to receive it. Understandably, they are losing patience fast with the Department.”
Holmes outlined the urgent need for these payments to be made immediately. “Farmers have been through a particularly tough period, and farm incomes have declined dramatically. Payments such as AEOS and REPS are a vital support to farm families. In order to balance their farm budgets, they need a degree of certainty about projected income. They were given a commitment that the payments would be made in December, then it was moved back to January. Now we are in April and many farmers have received nothing. It is obvious that the Department is holding back on making these payments until just prior to the county council and European elections. However, farmers can see through this tactic and are extremely annoyed by it. They need the money urgently to buy fodder for their livestock, and are not in a position to wait any longer.
“I am calling on the Minister to release these payments immediately to ease the undue burden that is currently being placed on farmers.”