A total of 9,703 applications were received by my Department under the re-opened Agri-environment Options Scheme (AEOS) and 6,000 applicants have now been approved for participation in the scheme.
The approval of applicants was determined by the following priority selection criteria: applicants within a targeted area of the Boora region of Co. Offaly who select Wild Bird Cover Option B (Grey Partridge) will get first access; applicants with eligible Natura land will get access next; applicants with at least 0.5 hectares of Utilisable Agricultural Non-Natura Commonage land rank next; farm partnerships; previous Participation in REPS; farm size (favouring smaller holding) based on the utilisable agricultural area; and finally location of farms in less favoured areas.
A total of 4,483 applicants selecting Grey Partridge, Natura and Commonage actions were approved into the scheme and the remaining 1,517 applicants selected had all previously participated in REPS and had a reference area of 22.06 ha or less on their 2012 Single Payment Scheme application.
All approved applicants were awarded a commencement date of May 1 2013, and their contracts will run for a period of five years and eight months which will extend their duration beyond the expiry of the current programming period of 31 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 programme 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.