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Written Answers - Rural Environment Protection Scheme

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 762 No. 1

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 169.  Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  the position regarding REPS 4 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19720/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I remain fully committed to continuing to implement the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS 4) under the current Rural Development Programme 2007-2013. The scheme, together with the Agri-environment options Scheme (AEOS), is designed to encourage farmers to go beyond basic good farming practice and to farm in a way that benefits the landscape, biodiversity and water quality. Both schemes have proven to be very popular with Irish farmers and confirms [208]their commitment to farming to the highest environmental standards, a commitment that fits very comfortably with the vision of smart, green, growth as set out in my Department’s Food Harvest 2020 strategy statement. There are over 45,000 participating farmers in both schemes.

However, despite my commitment to the agri-environment schemes, my Department was faced with a serious challenge in terms of managing a substantial reduction in budgetary resources in 2012. While €1,312m has been provided in the Department’s Vote for 2012, this represents a 19% decrease in funding compared to 2011. Under the circumstances, I had no option but to take some very difficult decisions and to announce a reduction to REPS payments to achieve an aggregate saving of 10% on expenditure. I decided that the most equitable means to achieve this saving, and in a manner consistent with the regulations governing the scheme, was to reduce the transaction costs of participating farmers. These costs, which represent the cost of engaging with the scheme and which have been paid up to this point, are optional for Member States. It is not proposed to reduce the rates for the various measures under the scheme which are calculated on the basis of actual costs incurred and income foregone by the farmer. The proposed cut is subject to the Commission approval.

I want to highlight the fact that despite the budgetary constraints and pressures that I have outlined, I have made provision of €243 million for agri-environment schemes in 2012.

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