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Minister Coughlan announces details of New Bioenergy Initiatives

- Establishment grants for Willow and Miscanthus,
- Top-up to Energy Crops Premium

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today announced details of new bioenergy initiatives to stimulate the production of certain energy crops.

Minister Coughlan said she is introducing a new Bioenergy Scheme providing establishment grants to farmers for up to 50% of the costs associated with establishing miscanthus and willow on set-aside land and on areas, which have been subject to an aid for the EU Premium of €45 per hectare. €8m is being allocated over the period 2007 to 2009 for the grant scheme to encourage the planting of willow and miscanthus for the production of biomass suitable for use as a renewable source of heat and energy. The Minister said the scheme is being piloted in 2007 and will allow up to 1,400 hectares of willow and miscanthus to be grant aided in the first year.

Minister Coughlan said under the Scheme, farmers can receive up to €1,450 per hectare towards establishment costs with the balance to be invested by the farmer. The Minister added, "the scheme will provide opportunities for farm diversification and encourage farmers to consider willow and miscanthus as an alternative land use option".

The Minister said that full details of the scheme are now available from her Department and the closing date for receipt of applications is 28 February 2007.

Minister Coughlan also announced that the Department would introduce a new top-up payment of €80 per hectare in 2007 to support the growing of energy crops. The €80 payment will be paid as a top-up to the existing EU Energy Crops premium of €45 per hectare, bringing the overall payment to €125 per hectare. It is intended that the €80 additional payment will apply for three years and will be subject to a maximum ceiling per producer over the three years. The current maximum area payable per producer over the three-year period is 37.5 hectares. The Minister is pursuing EU approval to allow an increase in this ceiling. Willow and miscanthus are also eligible for this payment, subject to an application under the EU Energy Crops Scheme.

The Minister also confirmed that she has received confirmation from the European Commission that land used for growing willow and miscanthus is eligible to benefit from the Single Farm Payment.

Minister Coughlan said she was confident these measures would incentivise farmers to grow energy crops and encourage the development of an energy crop growing sector in Ireland.

7 February, 2007

Note to Editors

The Bioenergy Scheme will operate under Council Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003, as amended, which authorises the payment of national aid. Establishment grants are payments to cover part of the costs of establishing these crops. Eligible costs include those associated with ground preparation, fencing, vegetation control, the purchase of planting stock, planting and first year cutback, and costs associated with other approved operations. Application forms are available on the Department's website at www.agriculture.gov.ie and from Biofuel Policy Unit, Department of Agriculture and Food, Kea-Lew Business Park, Mountrath Road, Portlaoise, Co. Laois.

Under the Energy Crop Scheme, an EU premium of €45 per hectare is available for energy crops intended for use in the production of biofuels and electric and thermal energy produced from biomass. Applications for the premium are submitted as part of the Single Payment Scheme. The additional €80 payment will be paid as a top- up to the EU premium and subject to the same conditions.

Date Released: 07 February 2007