Under the new partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, significant improvements are proposed to the farm waste management scheme. It was indicated in this agreement that these changes would be introduced at the earliest possible date, and this is still the intention. However, these are significant amendments to the scheme, requiring EU Commission approval, and are likely to be considered in tandem with suggested changes that may emanate from the independent mid-term evaluations of the NDP and CAP plan currently under way. Consequently, I would envisage the new scheme coming into force in early 2004. In the meantime, a meeting has been arranged with the farm bodies to discuss the situation in more detail.
In addition to the above, and as also promised in the partnership agreement, I have recently revised the standard costings used for the purposes of grant payments under this scheme. These new costings are being introduced straight away and I am also pleased to be in a position to apply them to all approvals to commence work issued by my Department since 1 December 2002.