On 25th September 2012, I announced the re-opening the Agri Environment Options Scheme, AEOS III. Despite the challenging budgetary constraints I secured a budget of €20 million to provide for the new AEOS III, with a view to accepting approximately 6,000 applicants into the scheme.
The Agri-environment Options Scheme (AEOS III) will build on the success of the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and both AEOS 1 and 2 in delivering an annual payment to farmers in return for farming to high environmental standards.
A maximum payment of €4,000 per annum will apply to individual applicants under the scheme. It will operate largely on the same basis as in previous years and the same measures and rates of payment will be available. Farmers with commonage land, designated Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas will be required to follow a 'Sustainable Management Plan' prepared by a planner. However, those applicants will be given priority in determining access to the scheme. Applicants other than those requiring a sustainable management plan will not be required to engage a planner to complete their application form. In addition to the priority which will be given to designated land applications will be assessed on the basis of selection criteria reflecting previous participation in REPS, farm size and location in Disadvantaged Areas.
Application forms, Terms and Conditions and Specification documents were made available in local AES offices Department and on the Department’s website. The website also contained a Guidance Note for completing the Sustainable Management Plan and clarification notes on the scheme. The closing date for receipt of applications was fixed at 30th November 2012 with a view to allowing applicants adequate time to prepare and submit applications under the scheme and, following the processing of those applications, to allow for the entry of new participants as soon as possible. Due to a high level of interest in the AEOS 3 Scheme I decided to extend the closing date for receipt of AEOS III applications by one week to Friday, 7th December 2012. The extension was granted to allow necessary time for both farmers and planners to complete work on hands and to return the completed applications to the Department Office in Johnstown Castle Estate, Wexford.
Approximately 10,000 have been submitted and all applications received will now be processed and assessed with a view to issuing approvals to successful applicants as soon as possible.