New Agri-Environment Scheme likely to be Bureaucratic Nightmare

IFA President Tim Cullinan said the new agri-environment scheme announced by the Government was likely to be a bureaucratic nightmare.

“While we don’t have full visibility on the exact conditions of the scheme, it looks very complicated and is likely to be tied up in red tape,” he said.

“This is typical of how the Minister and his Department are operating now. Big announcements with headline figures before the detail is properly discussed with farmers,” he said.

“We have had various environment schemes over the years from REPS to AEOS to GLAS. Each version has put more costs on farmers without any income increase. This new scheme is extremely complicated. It will exclude many farmers and huge amounts of funding will leak to people running the Co-operation model, and to other consultants,” he said.

IFA Rural Development Chairman Michael Biggins said all farmers who apply in 2023 must be paid in the same year.

“Not accepting all participants into the scheme in 2023 simply cannot happen. Agri-environment payments are a critically important part of farmers’ incomes.  It’s essential that all applicants under all tranches receive a payment in 2023 and the scheme cannot be limited to 50,000 participants.”

“I am calling on the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to ensure no farmer is without an environment scheme payment for 2023.  This can be done by either rolling over 12,000 GLAS 3 participants for 2023 or alternatively by paying an upfront payment in 2023 for Tranche 2 participants similar to the way REPS payments were in the past.”

“If the scheme is to live up to expectations, payment rates for prescription-based measures must be improved upon when compared to the GLAS payment rate and the payment rate of €10,500 per farmer must be available to all farmers, not just those in Co-operative areas.”

Results-based measures must be realistic and suitable for all sectors. They must include a large list of options and provide for simple scoring which is easily defined. They must also be practical and achievable.

“Consultation with farmers on the design of the scheme has been minimal, but from what we have seen, it will cause huge frustration amongst farmers. For a scheme which is due to open this year, there are simply not enough details available to help farmers prepare,” he said.

Michael Biggins said to honour the Programme for Government commitment of a REPS-type scheme, the Minister must ensure that payments of €10,500 are available to all farmers in both the General and the Co-operative options and it cannot be limited to 50,000 farmers. It must be open to all farmers who wish to participate.