Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, says the extension of the deadline for applications to the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) by one week does not go far enough.
Yesterday, Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney announced an extension of the time to apply for the AEOS by one week to next Friday December 7th.
Deputy Ó Cuív commented: “Last month, the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee unanimously supported a motion put forward by Fianna Fáil calling for the AEOS application deadline to be extended until the end of December.
“I am glad that the Minister has caved in to pressure from Fianna Fáil and extended the deadline but one week will do nothing to ease the pressure on the system.
“The Minister was originally reluctant to actually open AEOS this year and again bowed to pressure from Fianna Fáil to allow farmers access to it. He seems to be cut off from what is actually happening on the ground for farmers and this is reflected in the fact that the deadline for AEOS applications has only been extended by one week.
“There was a massive under-spend of €47 million in AEOS/REPS last year, surely the funds will be available for payments this year. The Minister must ensure that all funding allocated for AEOS this year is actually spent, farmers are depending on it and for the fund not to be fully administered is not acceptable.
“Fianna Fáil has appealed on numerous occasions for the Minister to amend the terms and conditions of AEOS, make the criteria more flexible and the scheme more workable for farmers. The scheme needs to have a maximum payment of €5,000, which is a modest figure in itself.
“My concern is that more than half of 13,000 farmers who came off REPS this year still won’t qualify for AEOS due to the dramatic reduction in grants available. The previous Government announced 10,000 AEOS places in 2011 and the maximum grant was €5,000, this has been dramatically reduced under the current administration.”