Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Agriculture Brian Ó Domhnaill has called on the Minister for Agriculture to immediately re-open the Agri-Environment Option Scheme to new applications. The Donegal Senator moved an adjournment motion in Seanad Éireann this week, appealing to the Minister to extend the scheme.
“The AEOS Scheme was introduced as a follow on to the REPS scheme. There are currently about 15,000 participants in AEOS I and 2, which opened to new participants in 2010 and 2011.
“I estimate there are almost 1,500 Donegal farmers who have completed REPS schemes in the past year or so and are now very anxious to continue to participate in an Agri-Environment Scheme. We need to continue to promote environmentally friendly farming and support smaller farming enterprises in rural areas.
“The Department of Agriculture had an under-spend of €226m in 2011 and I believe that some of this money must be put towards a new and improved AEOS scheme. The payments on a new scheme should include a €150/ha (increased from current €75/ha) commonage payment and the maximum level of payment under the scheme should also be increased from €4,000 to €5,000 for new and existing participants.”
In response to Senator Ó Domhnaill’s motion, the Minister indicated that he is now considering the possibility of re-opening AEOS in 2012 on an amended basis or on a limited scale. He said, “Any decision to re-open AEOS for applications for 2012 will have to be taken in the context of the financial resources available to the Department in 2013, as agreed by Government.”
Senator Ó Domhnaill concluded, “A lack of funding cannot be an excuse in this case, given the massive under-spend in the Department last year. This scheme is so important to farm families in County Donegal and it must be re-opened. It’s time for less talk and more action from Minister Coveney on this issue.”