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Agri-Environmental Options Scheme Re-opened

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD., announced today that he is re-opening the Agri-Environmental Options Scheme, AEOS, to new entrants.

Minister Coveney stated that “Despite the challenging budgetary constraints within the Department, I am delighted to be in a position to announce that I am providing €20m for the AEOS scheme which will open shortly for applications”. He said “the scheme will build on the success of both the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and both AEOS 1 and 2 in delivering an annual income 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 re-opened scheme. The Minister said that as average payments in the past have been lower than the maximum, he is confident that up to 6,000 new participants can be accepted into the scheme.

The Minister said that the scheme will be similar to previous years but that there will be some minor changes which are designed to target increased benefits to both participating farmers and the environment.

The Minister stated that “farmers will be paid to undertake identifiable and verifiable environmental measures from a menu of options”. He added that the scheme would “be attractive to farmers while also delivering real, worthwhile environmental benefits in the areas of bio-diversity, water quality and climate change. From that point of view, I am very pleased to announce the re-opening of the scheme again this year”.

As in earlier years, 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, the Minister said that applicants would be assessed on the basis of selection criteria reflecting previous participation in REPS, farm size and location in Disadvantaged Areas.

The Minister concluded by encouraging all farmers intending to apply for participation in the Scheme to look carefully at all of the information available to ensure that their applications are completed properly. Full details of the new Scheme, including the terms and conditions and application forms will be available in the next few days to his Department’s website at www.agriculture.gov.ie.  Hard copies of all scheme documentation will be made available from the Department’s local offices and Teagasc offices nationwide in the next few weeks.

AEOS is a targeted agri- environment scheme and is part-funded by the EU under the Rural Development Programme, 2007-2013. The scheme specifically targets the three challenges of halting biodiversity loss, contributing to the improvement of water quality and combating climate change, latter which have been assigned the highest priority at European level.

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