Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Marine and Food has strongly condemned the decision by Minister Simon Coveney to scrap the Agri Environmental Options Scheme (AEOS) for 2012.
Deputy Colreavy stated “This is a direct attack on low income farmers. The role of the Minister for Agriculture is to ensure that as many farmers as possible are able to farm the land. This move by Minister Coveney makes the lives of farmers trying to make a viable income from farming even more arduous.
“Only last month when I questioned the Minister on the opening of AEOS for 2012 he replied that he wanted to emphasise his ‘commitment to the agri-environment schemes which put environmentally-friendly farming to the forefront and which recognise the vital role farmers play in delivering public goods for the benefit of all society.’ Clearly Minister Coveney has abandoned low income farmers in the slash and burn agenda of the Fine Gael/Labour Government.”
Meanwhile IFA President John Bryan said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney needs to be stronger in defending low-income farmers by securing a meaningful AEOS scheme in 2012 for the thousands of farmers who depend greatly on agri-environment payments for their income.
“Does the Minister not realise that the loss of REPS3 will represent a reduction of up to 50% in net incomes for many of the farmers affected?
“No other sector is being let down so hard, and the Minister needs to deliver a meaningful AEOS scheme if the so-called social solidarity is to mean anything for farm families,” said Mr Bryan.
“Farmers are angry that Minister Coveney has failed to introduce an AEOS scheme in advance of the Single Farm Payment deadline of mid-May. Delaying a scheme until later in the year will result in income losses for farmers as many have finished their REPS3 contract.”
The IFA President pointed out that over the next two and a half years, 30,000 farmers will finish REPS4 plans, leading to significant savings.
“A new scheme must include all of the measures in AEOS 1 and 2. Schemes such as REPS and AEOS underpin agricultural production as well as sustaining the environment in parts of the country where land is marginal and incomes are low,” he noted.
Meanwhile, IFA Connacht Vice-President Padraic Divilly said he was seeking an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny to highlight the severity of the situation and the negative implications for farm families.