The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has caved to pressure from Fianna Fáil and farming groups and has now agreed to reopen the Agri Environment Options Scheme to new applicants. However, he has announced that the new scheme will only be open to approximately 6,000 applicants and the maximum payment will be reduced to €4,000.
Minister Coveney confirmed the details in response to questions from Fianna Fáil’s Agriculture Spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív in the Dáil this afternoon (Tuesday, 25 September).
“I welcome the fact that Minister Coveney has finally agreed to reopen AEOS, however it is very disappointing that the scheme will be significantly reduced,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.
“There are 13,000 farmers who have come off REPS this year and had a reasonable expectation that they would be able to apply to AEOS until Minister Coveney decided to suddenly shut the scheme. While it will come as a major relief to them that the Minister has finally agreed to reopen AEOS, the significant reduction he announced today will mean that less than half of the farmers who have come off REPS will receive a grant.
“The fact that just 6,000 places will be available on the new AEOS represents a major cut from the 10,000 places announced by the previous government in 2011. In addition to this, the maximum grant available has been reduced to €4,000. Combined, these two cuts represent a major reduction in funding for AEOS that will be felt by thousands of smaller farmers around the country.
“Fianna Fáil has been consistently pushing for the retention of the maximum payment of €5,000. I am again urging Minister Coveney to reconsider his decision to cut the grants and to make such a significant reduction to the number of places available.”