Government ‘REPS’ pilot scheme must deliver real money to farmers – IFA

IFA President Tim Cullinan said the ‘REPS’ pilot results-based scheme proposed by the Department of Agriculture based on the much-hyped commitment in the Programme for Government needs to deliver real money to farmers.

The IFA President led a delegation including National Rural Development Chair Michael Biggins and National Hill Chairman Flor McCarthy to meet Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue about the new scheme this morning.

“Despite all the hype, no budget has yet been confirmed for this pilot scheme. Drawing comparisons with the original Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) that was first introduced in the 90s will look like complete spin if the Minister doesn’t deliver a serious scheme,” he said.

The experience with results-based schemes to date has been positive, but in general farmers participating in results-based schemes are also in GLAS which gives them a base payment. There are several conditions beyond a farmer’s control such as weather that can have an impact on the results achieved which can have a negative effect on the payments farmers receive.

“What farmers need is a meaningful scheme, with a base payment of €10,000. If the Government want to live up to their promises, they must deliver this,” he said.

IFA Rural Development Chairman Michael Biggins said the Programme for Government stated there was to be €1.5bn over ten years from carbon tax to fund a ‘REPS-2’ type scheme and this money to be in addition to CAP pillar 2 funds.  This money must be delivered as part of a meaningful scheme for farmers.

The IFA submission identifies over 20 different measures that could be included in the new pilot scheme.

Michael Biggins said the scheme must be opened immediately to deliver a meaningful payment in 2021. The IFA submission states that a specific menu option should be made available to all farmers in the scheme, giving them the choice of what best suits their farm, while maximising their payment and yielding an environmental return in line with the scheme objectives.

IFA Hill Farming Chairman Flor McCarthy said for over 20 years, Natura 2000 lands (SACs, SPAs, NHAs) and commonage lands have been given priority entry into Agri Environment Schemes. “This partially recognises the restrictions imposed on these lands and they must be given priority entry and higher payment rates in the pilot scheme and all future agri-environment schemes,” he said.

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