Despite the challenging budgetary constraints facing my Department, last year I allocated €20 million annually to fund a new agri-environment scheme and on foot of this I announced the re-opening of the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS 111). I decided on a maximum payment of €4,000 per annum for individual applicants and based on the average payment under the scheme in the past, this would allow for approximately 6,000 new participants to be accepted into the scheme.
My intention is to complete the AEOS III selection process shortly and to notify all applicants of the outcome and of the commencement dates under the scheme in the case of successful applicants. Because the number of applications exceed the number that can be accepted into the scheme, it is absolutely essential that decisions are made on accurate data. For that reason, my Department has taken time to contact the applicants where queries arise to obtain the required information in order for the application to be appropriately assessed.
Unfortunately, given budgetary constraints, it will not be possible to allocate additional funding to AEOS III in order to extend the number of available places in the Scheme.