Thousands of farmers could find themselves without an agri-environment payment next year, despite news that a new agri-environment scheme will open later this summer.
Applications for the new flagship €1.5 billion program that will replace GLAS will open this summer, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue recently confirmed.
However, in response to a question from Independent of agriculture On whether the new scheme will be able to accommodate all farmers currently in GLAS, the Minister said: “I am exploring all options to ensure that no farmer currently in GLAS, who wishes to join the new scheme, does not will be without an agri-environment scheme payment as we transition from GLAS to the new scheme.
“It’s crucial that we get as much continuity as possible and I won’t overlook any detail in the process.”
The Agri-Environment-Climate Measure (AECM) will be a result-based scheme and will offer a maximum payment of €7,300 to farmers in general and €10,500 to those adopting cooperation projects in priority geographical areas.
IFA President Tim Cullinan said the new scheme is far from a “new REPS”, is “extremely complicated” and will exclude many farmers.
“The government and the minister have tried to portray this as a ‘REPS-like system’ since it first appeared on the government’s agenda,” he said.
“However, it has little or nothing in common with the original Rural Environmental Protection Program (REPS).”
The AECM proposes to involve up to 50,000 farmers and there are plans to open the program to at least two tranches, which the IFA says could lead to a delay in payments.
“There is a real revenue concern if there is a mismatch between GLAS and ACEM, which will be caused by the tranched approach. Not accepting all program participants in 2023 is simply unacceptable. GLAS payments /AECM are an essential part of farmers’ income,” Mr. Cullinan said.
“I call on the Minister to ensure that no farmer is deprived of a payment under the environmental program for 2023.
“This can be done either by rolling over 12,000 GLAS 3 participants for 2023, or by paying an upfront payment in 2023 for Tranche 2 participants, similar to REPS payments.”