REPS impasse resolved

News that the impasse over REPS payments has been resolved came as a welcome relief to many farmers in County Roscommon this week. ON Tuesday morning last Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan announced that, following discussions in Brussels with Commissioner Fischer Boel, she obtained the Commissioner’s agreement that Ireland could continue as before in paying REPS 2 and REPS 3 participants at the beginning of each contract year. Welcoming the Commissioner’s decision, Minister Coughlan said:  ‘I am very grateful to Commissioner Fischer Boel for her personal intervention to resolve an extremely difficult situation. I had emphasised to her the seriousness with which I viewed the matter, and the risk of damaging Irish farmers’ confidence in a popular and extremely successful scheme which has delivered real benefits to society as a whole in terms of landscape, biodiversity and water quality.’ The Minister added that she had directed her officials to take immediate steps to release REPS 2 and REPS 3 payments which had been on hold since early January. Commissioner Fischer Boel stated that she had no objection to Ireland continuing to receive REPS payment claims and make payments as has been done in the past, until the expiry of REPS 2 and REPS 3 contracts. Discussions are continuing in Brussels at official level on the interpretation of the new Commission Regulations governing payments under REPS 4. Welcoming the turnaround, ICSA rural development chairman Gabriel Gilmartin said that farmers in REPS 2 and 3 had their payments withheld for several months by the Department of Agriculture, under orders from the EU.  Negotiations are continuing on REPS 4 payments. Malcolm Thompson, ICSA President, said ‘it is vital that REPS 4 farmers are included in the move to make the payments in advance, as there would otherwise be no incentive to farmers to move from REPS 3 to REPS 4 and the 17 percent increase for REPS 4 would be eroded.’