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Minister Coveney Announces the Award of 6,000 AEOS 3 Contracts Valued at €20 Million Annually

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD said today that he was “pleased to announce that approvals to 6,000 successful applicants under the Agri-environmental Options Scheme (AEOS 3) are now issuing from the Department”.

Minister Coveney said that despite the challenging budgetary position and the limited resources available to his Department, he had decided to provide €20 million annually under the scheme. The additional income provided under the Scheme, with a maximum payment of €4,000 per annum, will provide a welcome boost to those farmers operating to high environmental standards. AEOS is part-funded by the EU under the Rural Development Programme, 2007-2013 and is a targeted agri-environment scheme which specifically targets the three challenges of halting biodiversity loss, contributing to the improvement of water quality and combating climate change.  AEOS 3 will “build on the success of both the Rural Environment Protection Scheme and both AEOS 1 and 2 in delivering an annual income to farmers in return for farming to very high environmental standards”, said the Minister.

The contracts will commence this month and will bring the number of Irish farmers participating in agri-environmental schemes, i.e. the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and the existing AEOS 1&2, to 50,000. Under AEOS 3 strict selection criteria, as required by the European Commission and as set out in the Terms & Conditions, were applied in choosing the successful applications. Minister Coveney indicated that those farmers with commonage land and designated Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas, who will be required to follow a 'Sustainable Management and Grazing Plan', have been given first access to the Scheme and will make up the majority of participants. Others who have been successful include farmers who were previously active in the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), and as such have a proven track record in the role of conservation and land management.

The Minister reminded farmers that they “should not undertake any actions listed in their application until approved for participation in the scheme as actions undertaken or expense incurred prior to formal approval will not be eligible for reimbursement”. Finally, Minister Coveney added that while the contract period will be for a period of five years and eight months, the terms and conditions and payment rates for the new participants in the scheme will apply until the end of 2013. At that stage, participants will have the option of either terminating the contract without penalty or of opting to join whatever scheme may be introduced in the new EU Financial Perspective programming period.

Date Released: 29 May 2013