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Smith launches new €50 Million Agri-Environment Options Scheme

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today launched a new €50 million agri-environment options scheme (AEOS) which will be open for applications until 17th May next. Minister Smith said the new Scheme, which represents a completely new approach to the rural environment with farmers being paid to undertake identifiable and verifiable environmental measures "will be attractive to farmers and will also deliver real, worthwhile environmental benefits".

The Minister said that funding for the AEOS comes from modulated funds (negotiated as part of the CAP Health check), topped up significantly by Exchequer funding, and that "not only is it mandatory that the modulated funds are spent on the so-called 'new challenges', including biodiversity, water management and climate change, but that the type of actions to be funded and the kinds of effects that are required to be achieved in dealing with those challenges are also stipulated".

Minister Smith said that a total of €50 million had been made available for the Scheme, with a maximum payment of €5,000 for up to 10,000 participants.  He explained that "having examined a representative sample of actual cases and, based on those cases, I am satisfied that the majority of participants will be able to reach the maximum payment of €5,000.  I am confident that very many others will get very close to that figure".

The Minister said that a particular focus of the Scheme would be administrative simplicity and for that reason only those participants with Natura* (see Note for Editors) land or non-Natura commonage will have to follow a 'Sustainable Management Plan'.  These plans will be prepared to a much simpler specification than the traditional REPS plan and the cost of preparing such plans should, consequently, be a great deal less than the cost of REPS plans.

In addition, officials from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be commencing a series of regional meetings next week for prospective participants. Minister Smith expressed his satisfaction that "other than those who are required to follow a Sustainable Management Plan, AEOS participants will not be required to engage a planner to complete their application forms".

The Minister also made the point that "As well as introducing this new agri-environment options scheme, the Rural Environment Protection Scheme is continuing.  Last year, there was a record 63,000 farmers in REPS. That number includes 17,000 farmers who joined REPS 4 in 2009, all of whom will be allowed to complete their full five-year contracts. All existing REPS 3 and 4 participants will be allowed to remain in the scheme until the end of their existing contracts.  This year, the Department will spend €330 million on REPS".

Minister Smith confirmed that full details of the new Scheme, including the terms and conditions and application forms had been posted to his Department's website at www.agriculture.gov.ie and that they would also be available from the Department's local offices and Teagasc offices nationwide. The Minister concluded by encouraging all eligible farmers to apply for participation in the Scheme and urged them to look carefully at all of the information available with a view to ensuring that they maximise the available payment.

Minister Smith launches new €50 Million Agri-Environment Options Scheme 1  Minister Smith launches new €50 Million Agri-Environment Options Scheme 2 


Note to Editors
*Natura 2000

The legal basis for selection and designation of Natura 2000 sites is Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 and Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992. These provide for the establishment of a network of protected areas throughout the European Community. In Ireland these sites are selected and designated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Directives were transposed into Irish law through the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997. The Wildlife Act of 1997 (as amended in 2001) is the main statute governing the protection of wildlife in Ireland and takes into account the Birds and Habitats Directives. As part of the designation process, a series of notifiable actions were developed which include a list of actions that may alter, damage, destroy or interfere with the integrity of the site. Land-owners must comply with the notifiable actions.

Date Released: 30 March 2010