Written Answers. - Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

26 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amendments he has made to the REP scheme; if it will be made more user friendly, as discussed at the partnership talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18908/03]

The main provisions of REPS are set out in the CAP Rural Development Plan 2000-2006, and substantial changes require the approval of the European Commission. I intend to submit proposals for amendments to REPS to the European Commission later in 2003. In order to ensure the views of all stakeholders are taken into consideration in formulating these proposals, I launched a consultative process on REPS in October 2002. More than 50 submissions were received, covering a wide range of issues. My officials then held a series of meeting with the parties who had made submissions, and the consultative process culminated with an open forum on 4 June in which the various stakeholders took part, along with officials of my Department and the European Commission. A wide ranging and very useful discussion took place touching on all aspects of the scheme.

Following the consultation process, my officials are currently drafting proposals for amendments to the scheme which will be submitted to the European Commission later in the year. In making proposals to the Commission for amendments to REPS, one of my priorities will be to make the scheme simpler and more user-friendly. With this in view, I have made certain changes to the administrative provisions of REPS to simplify scheme documentation. REPS planners are no longer required to check ownership documentation for privately owned land that is declared for payment under the scheme, and I introduced a simplified format for farm plans that is optional for farmers with extensive farming systems. The simplified REPS plan will enable the REPS planner to set out clearly an annual programme of works under each of the existing REPS measures, in a straightforward way, which will leave the farmer in no doubt as to what he or she has to do during the course of the REPS agreement.

In addition, I have made arrangements for REPS planners to be given the facility to access and download on behalf of their clients land parcel information and maps from the Department's land parcel identification system database. To facilitate the provision of maps I negotiated a copyright fee of €1.3 million with Ordnance Survey Ireland.