Kerry Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly has welcomed the Government’s climb-down on the Agri-Environment Options Scheme, but has expressed his disappointment that funding for the new scheme has been significantly cut.
There was outcry when Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney announced that he would not re-open AEOS this year. However following months of pressure, the Minister confirmed to Fianna Fáil in the Dáil last week that AEOS will be open to new applicants this year, but at a significantly reduced rate.
Senator Daly explained: “It will come as a relief to smaller farmers across Co Kerry that Minister Coveney has finally seen some sense on this issue and has agreed to reopen AEOS. Fianna Fáil has been pushing for this for some and I am glad that there has been some movement. However, we see no justification for cutting the maximum grant from to €4,000 and indeed for reducing the number of places to 6,000.
“My concern is that more than half of 13,000 farmers who came off REPS this year still won’t qualify for AEOS due to the dramatic reduction in grants available. The previous Government announced 10,000 AEOS places in 2011 and the maximum grant was €5,000. While I am glad that 6,000 farmers will benefit from the new scheme, it is disappointing that thousands of others who are very much in need of this state support will be left out completely.”
Senator Daly has called has called on Minister Coveney to consider increasing the number of places to at least 8,000 and to retain the grant level at €5,000.
“I am relieved that the Minister seems to now recognise how important AEOS is to thousands of smaller farmers across Kerry. However it is important that he also recognises that the cuts he has made to the new scheme will have an impact on farmers in this region who are struggling to keep their businesses going. I am asking him to complete his u-turn and restore the scheme in full,” the Kerry Senator said.