Denis Naughten will this week meet with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to impress upon him the need to open up the AEOS scheme to new applicants.
Speaking following a meeting with the IFA last night (Monday) Denis Naughten said: “While it is now clear that the outgoing Government failed to provide the funding needed to open up the scheme to new applicants in 2011, it is unacceptable that local farmers should be penalised for this incompetence.
“The fact is that farmers who have exited from REPS 3 and REPS 4 had a legitimate expectation that the AEOS scheme would reopen, and many farmers had already budgeted on that basis.
“I have spoken with the Agriculture Minister who is now trying to find savings within his own Department to be able to reopen the scheme. He is also fighting with the Finance Department to try to get go ahead for a scheme this year. The problem is that not only has the Government to provide funds for this year but it also has to make provision for the five years of the scheme.
“I intend to point out to Minister Coveney at our meeting that many farmers have relied on the income from REPS to maintain the family farm and they are now extremely worried they could be left without income in 2011 unless they are able to access a new environmental scheme.
“Farm families, like so many other families, are struggling to cope at the moment and they need to know if they have a future in agriculture.
“The local economic cost of the closure of REPS to farmers in County Roscommon is €11m/year. In County Leitrim the figure is nearly €7m/year.
“Such a scheme would not only benefit the local economy but the country as a whole. Farming makes an important economic contribution and it is worth remembering that for every job in food manufacturing there are four related jobs in the wider economy,” concluded Denis Naughten.