I have received a number of representation regarding the reopening of the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) in 2012 including submissions from the Irish Farmers Association. My own and the Government's on-going commitment to agri-environmental schemes are evident in the funding of €243m which has been provided to meet commitments under Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and AEOS in 2012. The commitment is also clear from the fact that despite serious budgetary pressures, I re-opened the AEOS to new entrants last year. Due to the on-going situation in the national finances, strict budgetary constraints remain in place and, as a result, management of the limited resources represents a very challenging situation involving difficult choices.
Nevertheless, I have examined the various submissions submitted to me and I am actively considering the possibility of re-opening AEOS to allow for the submission of applications either on an amended basis from the existing scheme and/or on a limited scale, including the possibility of re-opening for applications later in the year. I will make an announcement as soon as I have made my decision.