I want to take the opportunity to again emphasise both my own and the Government’s commitment to the agri-environment schemes as operated by my Department. These schemes put environmentally friendly farming at the forefront and recognise the vital role farmers play in delivering public goods in protecting the environment and the natural heritage for the benefit of society as a whole. This commitment is evident in the fact that more than €750 million was spent by my Department on agri-environment schemes in 2010, 2011 and 2012 alone.
There are currently 29,300 active participants due a REPS 4 payment for the scheme year 2013 and the numbers participating in the scheme in 2014 is estimated at 17,000. The projected expenditure in 2013 under REPS is €148.5 million.
There are currently 14,000 active participants in AEOS 1 and 2 combined, while a further 6,000 were recently approved under AEOS 3. Estimated expenditure in 2013 for AEOS is €51.8 million.
Funding for both REPS and AEOS in 2014 will be determined in the context of the 2014 Estimates process. In accordance with the terms and conditions of the scheme, participants in AEOS 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 EU programming 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. My aim will be to provide sufficient funding to meet all liabilities arising under both scheme in 2014.