My 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 the Agri-environment Options Scheme (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. Strict budgetary constraints remain in place and, as a result, the management of the limited resources represents a very challenging situation involving difficult choices.
I have received a number of representations regarding the re-opening of the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) in 2012 including submissions from the Irish Farmers Association.
I am actively considering the possibility of re-opening AEOS to allow for the submission of applications this year either on an amended basis from the existing scheme and/or on a limited scale. I will make an announcement as soon as I have made my decision.