Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Questions (13)

Willie O'Dea


13. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the maximum size of farm approved for the agri-environment option scheme 3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29358/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Despite the challenging budgetary constraints facing my Department, last year I allocated €20 million annually to fund the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) and re-opened the scheme to new applicants (AEOS 111). 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.

I decided on a maximum payment of €4,000 per annum for individual applicants under the re-opened scheme which, on the basis of previous experience in implementing the scheme, would allow roughly 6,000 new participants to be accepted into the scheme.

A total of 9,703 applications were received by my Department under the re-opened scheme. Based on the annual budget available and following the ranking and selection process, a total of 6,000 applicants have been approved for participation in the scheme based on the prioritised ranking and selection criteria set out in the published scheme documentation as follows:

- Applicants within a targeted area of the Boora region of Co. Offaly who select Wild Bird Cover Option B (Grey Partridge);

- Applicants with eligible Natura land;

- Applicants with at least 0.5 hectares of Utilisable Agricultural Non-Natura Commonage land;

- Farm Partnerships;

- Previous Participation in REPS;

- Farm Size (Favouring smaller holding) based on the utilisable agricultural area;

- Location of farms in Less Favoured Areas.

4,483 applicants selecting Grey Partridge, Natura and Commonage actions and Partnership farmers were approved into the scheme. The remaining 1,517 applicants approved had all previously participated in REPS and had a reference area of 22.06 ha or less on their 2012 Single Payment Scheme application.

Because of the funding constraints and as a result of the selection process, farmers that previously participated in REPS and had a farm size bigger than 22.06 hectares were unsuccessful in their applications as were those who had not previously participated in REPS.

All approved applicants were awarded a commencement date of May 1 2013, and so their contracts will run for a period of five years and 8 months which will extend their duration beyond the expiry of the current programming period of 31st December 2013. Participants in the scheme will be offered the opportunity to adjust their commitments for the remainder of the period of their contract to the legal framework of the next period which is currently under negotiation. If such an adjustment is not acceptable to the participant he/she may withdraw from the schemes without any requirement for reimbursement of aid already received.