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4. Agri Environment

AGRI-ENVIRONMENT OPTIONS SCHEME (AEOS) AND NATURA 2000 SCHEME

The Agri-Environment Options and Natura Schemes are measures under Ireland's Rural Development Programme 2007-13. The Schemes are jointly funded by the European Union and National Exchequer. The objectives of AEOS are to meet the challenges of conserving and promoting biodiversity, encouraging water management and water quality measures and combating climate change. The objective of the Natura 2000 scheme is to contribute to positive environmental management of farmed Natura 2000 sites and river catchments in the implementation of the Birds Directive (Council Directive 79/409/EEC), the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC).

AEOS/Natura will build upon the gains made in conservation management since 1994 under the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), and will specifically target Natura 2000 sites and areas whose landscape and biodiversity have resulted from traditional farming methods.

 Measure Agri-Environment payment   Capital Investment  
Natura 2000 (SPA and SAC) €75 per hectare per calendar year  
Natura 2000 (Priority Wild Bird Habitat) €314 per hectare per calendar year  
Commonage land outside Natura network €75 per hectare per calendar year  
Establishment and maintenance of habitats €8 per 100 metre per calendar year Fencing €3.30 per linear metre equivalent to €0.66/m per year for five years
Tree Planting and Management Standard   €62.70 per tree equivalent to €12.54 per year for five years
Whips   €9.50 per whip equivalent to €1.90 per year for five years  
Traditional Hay Meadows €314 per hectare per calendar year    
Species Rich Grasslands €314 per hectare per calendar year  
Animal Genetic Resources €200 per Livestock Unit per calendar year    
Traditional Orchards €5 per tree per calendar year €75 per tree equivalent to €15 per year for five years
Wild bird Cover €869 per hectare per calendar year  
Hedgerow Planting €2.50 per metre per calendar year €32 per metre equivalent to €6.40 per year for five years
Hedgerow Coppicing   €5 per metre equivalent to €1 per year for 5 years  
Hedgerow Laying €8 per metre equivalent to €1.60 per year for 5 years  
Traditional Dry Stone wall Maintenance €50 per 100 metres per calendar year  
Riparian Margins 2.5m margin: €0.14 per metre
5m margin:    €0.34 per metre
10m margin:  €0.74 per metre
30m margin   €2.70 per metre
Fencing €3.30 per linear metre equivalent to €0.66/m per year for five years
Provision of alternative water source for bovines. €200 per drinking trough equivalent to
€40 per year for five years
Arable Margins €0.23 per metre per calendar year  
Green Cover Establishment from a sown crop. €80 per hectare per calendar year  
Use of new technologies for slurry spreading   €0.77 per cubic metre per calendar year  
Min Till €23 per hectare per calendar year.  

Further information is available from AEOS Section, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Johnstown Castle Estate Wexford. Telephone 053 9163400 or email: aeos@agriculture.gov.ie

RURAL ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION SCHEME (REPS)

The Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) is a measure under Ireland's Rural Development Programme 2007-2013. The current Scheme, REPS 4 was introduced in August 2007 and was closed to new entrants in July 2009.

The objectives of REPS are:

  • To promote:
    • Ways of using agricultural land which are compatible with the protection and improvement of the environment, biodiversity, the landscape and its features, climate change, natural resources, water quality, the soil and genetic diversity;
    • Environmentally-favourable farming systems;
    • The conservation of high nature-value farmed environments which are under threat;
    • The upkeep of historical features on agricultural land;
    • The use of environmental planning in farming practice;
  • To protect against land abandonment;
  • To sustain the social fabric in rural communities;
  • To contribute to positive environmental management of farmed NATURA 2000 sites. 

The Scheme is jointly funded by the European Union and National Exchequer. 

Under REPS, a participant farmer was required to draw up a nutrient management plan and a grassland management plan for his/her farm. Plans required for the Scheme had to be drawn up by a planner/planning agency approved by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Farmers with land in a NATURA 2000 site i.e. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or Special Protection Areas (SPAs) were required to include such lands in the REPS farm plan.

BIODIVERSITY OPTIONS

There are eleven basic measures in REPS, which are compulsory. To achieve increased biodiversity at farm level, enhancement of the eleven basic measures was desirable. By providing farmers with a choice from a series of optional undertakings, each farmer was given the opportunity to select the works most appropriate to the environmental or landscape features of the farm.

Scheme applicants were required to undertake a minimum of two biodiversity options, with at least one coming from Category 1.

CATEGORY 1 OPTIONS:

  • Traditional Hay Meadows;
  • Species Rich Grassland;
  • Use of Clover in Swards;
  • Creation of New Habitat;
  • Establish Farm Woodland;
  • Coppicing of Hedgerows;
  • Laying of Hedgerows;
  • Plant New Hedgerows;
  • Additional Stonewall Maintenance;
  • Traditional Irish Orchards;
  • Install Bird Boxes;
  • Green Cover Establishment;
  • Environmental Management of Set-aside;
  • Increased Arable Margins;
  • Low Input Spring Cereals;
  • Minimum Tillage Crops.

CATEGORY 2 OPTIONS:

  • Traditional Hay Meadows;
  • Species Rich Grassland;
  • Use of Trailing Shoe;
  • Control of Invasive Species;
  • Increased Watercourse Margin;
  • Exclude all Bovine Access to Watercourses;
  • Use of Planted Buffer Zones;
  • Broadleaved Tree Planting;
  • Nature Corridors;
  • Increase in Archaeological Buffer Zones;
  • Establish Traditional Irish Orchards;
  • Install bird or bat boxes;
  • Green Cover Establishment;
  • Increased Arable Margins;
  • Minimum-Tillage.

All undertakings included in the farmer's REPS plan must be implemented for a minimum period of five years.

SUPPLEMENTARY MEASURES

Farmers in REPS were able to undertake additional actions in the form of Supplementary Measures. These were designed to take account of the need to resolve specific environmental problems that relate to the priority environmental themes of water quality, biodiversity/landscape and climate change. These Supplementary Measures provided farmers with the opportunity to draw down additional payments under the scheme. The Supplementary Measures in REPS 4 were as follows:

  • Wild Bird Habitat;
  • Traditional Irish Orchards;
  • Conservation of Animal Genetic Resources;
  • Riparian Zones;
  • LINNET Habitats;
  • Low Input Spring Cereals;
  • Minimum-tillage;
  • Traditional Sustainable Grazing;
  • Incorporation of Clover into Grassland Swards;
  • Mixed Grazing;
  • Heritage Buildings.

Farmers who wished to undertake Supplementary Measure(s) were required to comply with the Measure(s) from the commencement date of the plan, with the exception of the Heritage Buildings measure, as a condition of eligibility for payment.

REPS PAYMENT RATES (PER ANNUM)  
General REPS Programme €200/ha for first 20 ha
€175/ha for next 20 ha up to 40 ha
€70/ha for next 15 ha up to 55 ha
€10/ha for areas over 55 ha 
Natura 2000, commonage and NHA land €242/ha for first 40 ha
€24/ha for next 40 ha up to 80 ha
€18/ha for next 40 ha up to 120 ha
€5/ha for areas over 120 ha
Supplementary Measures
Rare Breeds
€234 per LU of the breed registered with the breed society
Traditional Orchards
Riparian
Conservation of Wild Birds
LINNET Project
€256 per holding
€724.50/ha
€85/ha
€700/ha first ha
€400/ha from 1 to 2.5 ha
Low Input Tillage Crops
Minimum Tillage
Traditional Sustainable Grazing
Mixed Grazing 
€316/ha up to maximum of 2.5 ha
€21/ha up to maximum of 40 ha
€43/ha up to max area of 20 ha
€43/ha up to max area of 20 ha
Clover Swards  €26/ha up to max of 40 ha

ORGANIC FARMING

Organic Farming is a specific system of farming whose aim is to produce quality food in a manner beneficial to the environment and to wildlife. Organic farmers practice farming in accordance with standards, which have been formulated for crop and livestock production. The thrust of these standards is to develop a system of farming that co-exists with other systems, sustains soil fertility and protects the environment, wildlife and non-renewable resources.

Organic production and labelling of organic products is controlled by European and national regulations, i.e. European Council Regulation (EEC) No. 834/2007 as amended, which is backed up by Statutory Instruments Nos. 112 of 2004 and 698 of 2007. The EU legislation allows Member States to use private inspection bodies to carry out the inspection and licensing system of organic operators. Five certification bodies are approved to carry out this work in Ireland, i.e. Institute of Marketecology (IMO), Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA), Organic Trust Limited, BDAA-Demeter UK and Global Trust Certification Limited.

ASSISTANCE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SECTOR

ORGANIC FARMING SCHEME

From 1994 to 2006, organic farmers have been supported by way of a Supplementary Measure under the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS). Under the current Rural Development Programme, which runs from 2007 to 2013, there is a stand-alone Organic Farming Scheme. Organic Farmers were entitled to join REPS also until it was closed to new applications in July 2009, and are entitled to join the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) which was launched in March 2010.

The objective of the Organic Farming Scheme is to deliver enhanced environmental and animal welfare benefits and to encourage producers to respond to the market demand for organically produced food.

To be eligible for this measure, farmers must be licensed by one of the five certification bodies approved by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, must also register with the Organic Unit of the Department and farm organically for a minimum period of 5 years.

The payment rates are as follows:

  >=3ha and up to 55ha >55 ha 
In conversion   €212/ha €30/ha 
Full organic status €106/ha €15/ha
Horticulture Holdings Only 

 Horticulture Area
<=6 hectares (ha)

  Horticulture Area
> 6ha and up to 55ha 
Horticulture Area
> 55 ha  
In conversion €283/ha €212/ha €30/ha
Full organic status €142/ha €106/ha €15/ha

SCHEMES OF GRANT-AID FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ORGANIC SECTOR

Development grants are available both to farmers and to processors under the Schemes of Grant Aid for the Development of the Organic Sector, which were approved under the National Development Plan, 2007-2013. The on-farm and off-farm Schemes provide grant aid for new equipment and facilities for production, preparation, grading, packing, storage, distribution and sale of organic products. Details are as follows:

  • Grant aid of 40% for investments over €1,500;
  • Maximum on-farm grant aid of €60,000 payable over the duration of the scheme, which runs from 2007-2013;
  • Maximum off-farm grant aid of €500,000 payable over the duration of the scheme, which runs from 2007-2013.

Further information is available from the Organic Unit, Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, Johnstown Castle Estate, Wexford. Lo-call: 1890 200 509 or 053 9163400, Fax: 053 9143965 or e-mail: organics@agriculture.gov.ie  

BIOENERGY SCHEME 2010-2012

The Bioenergy Scheme provides establishment grants to farmers to grow miscanthus and willow for the production of biomass suitable for use as a renewable source of energy. The Scheme aims to increase the production of willow and miscanthus in Ireland and to encourage alternative land use options. It is open to applicants who are landowners or have leasehold title to the land and have responsibility for farming the land on which it is proposed to carry out the plantation. Commonage shares, rented lands and grazing rights are not eligible for payment under the Scheme.

Aid is payable on 50% of the approved costs associated with establishing the crop, subject to a maximum payment rate of €1,300 per hectare, with the balance to be invested by the applicant. Eligible costs include those associated with ground preparation, fencing, vegetation control, the purchase of planting stock and planting.

Areas planted with willow and miscanthus also qualify for the Single Farm Payment and payments under the REPS and Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, subject to some restrictions on the areas planted.

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Applications for establishment grants are subject to a pre-planting approval process;
  • Applications will be prioritised having regard to the Selection Criteria set out in the Scheme's Terms and Conditions;
  • The minimum allowable area per applicant is 3 hectares and the maximum is 30 hectares;
  • Applicants must submit evidence of linkages with end-users to use the biomass crop as a source of bioenergy;
  • Items invoiced, delivered or purchased, and payments made, prior to the issue of Pre-Planting approval are not eligible for grant aid;
  • Applicants must adequately maintain and manage the crop as a biomass crop grown for bioenergy for a minimum of 7 years from the date of approval.

Applications for pre-planting approval should be submitted to Biofuels Policy Unit, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Kea-Lew Business Park, Mountrath Road, Portlaoise, Co. Laois. Telephone 057- 8692231/057 8692240; E-mail bioenergy@agriculture.gov.ie