Pat Gilhooley, Leitrim IFA County Chairman, has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney that a new AEOS 3 Scheme will be opened to 6,000 farmers, with a maximum payment of €4,000.
He said the scheme will be available to farmers in both Natura and non-Natura areas.
Mr Gilhooley told the Leitrim Observer that, “While the payment rates are lower that REPS 3, the scheme recognises the necessity to have an agri-environment scheme.
“AEOS delivers significant benefits to the rural environment and is of huge importance in the rural economy, generating activity and leading to a wider investment spin off”.
The IFA Chairman said the new scheme will allow the agri-environment measure to play an important role in agricultural policy.
“Combined with other Rural Development measures, it sends a very strong signal that in the forthcoming CAP negotiations, Pillar 11 measures will be a vital element in protecting vulnerable sectors and regions as part of the overall CAP Budget post-2013,” he added.
Mr Gilhooley said that direct supports such as Single Farm Payment, REPS, AEOS, Disadvantaged Areas and other sectoral schemes are critical in supporting farm income noting “It is important that farmers make the necessary arrangements to apply for the new scheme as soon as possible.”
Local Fine Gael representatives have also welcomed the move. Sligo/North Leitrim TD, Tony McLoughlin said he was delighted by the announcement on the AEOS scheme and the payment of €154 under the 2012 Disadvantaged area scheme.
“The combination of these two announcements will provide a welcome boost to the farming community. Payments under the 2012 DAS will start issuing on schedule this week, delivering a total of €154 million to farmers across the country. €4,860,073.04 will be provided to 2,212 farmers across Leitrim under the 2012 DAS.
“I am delighted that the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme will start issuing, on schedule, on Wednesday, 26 September 2012. This represents a significant boost not only to these farmers and their families, but for the wider rural economy,” he said.
“Despite the challenging budgetary constraints within the Department, I am delighted that the Minister has been able to provide €20m for the AEOS scheme which will open shortly for applications.
“AEOS 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.
His Roscommon/South Leitrim party colleague agreed noting: “This is a matter which I have been liaising with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on for some time.
“AEOS payments are an important element of the annual farming income and in the promotion of high environmental standards.”
Fine Gael Senator and Spokesperson on Agriculture Michael Comiskey agreed the new AEOS scheme was vital for farming in the region.
“I have been advised that as the average payment in the past has been lower than this maximum it should ensure that up to 6,000 new participants can be accepted into the scheme,” he noted.
“I would like to thank Minister Coveney for this allocation to the Scheme particularly at a time when his Department is under considerable financial restraint.”