Farms of all sizes will have the opportunity to join the new pilot agri-environmental scheme, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has emphasised.

The result-based scheme will be paid across 10ha and will be open to farmers not currently in GLAS, subject to approval from the European Commission.

Addressing the Oireachtas committee for agriculture, Minister McConalogue said there would be an average payment of €4,700 under the scheme, with a potential maximum of just under €7,000.

Farmers who have 10ha would have the same opportunity to earn an income from the scheme as those with 100ha, the Minister said.

Payment rates

Farmers would require a payment rate of more than €10,000, Independent TD Michael Collins told the Minister.

Deputy Collins said farmers were dependent on agri-environmental schemes and their importance had been underlined by increasing environmental and climate pressures.

The Minister was urged to go back to the blueprint of successful REPS schemes by Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe.

He said the new scheme needed to avoid a repeat of outgoing ones that farmers had exited as they felt there wasn’t a sufficient financial benefit.

Out of pocket

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice pointed out that over 6,000 farmers had not signed up for the GLAS extension and, coupled with cuts to the BPS, these farmers were significantly out of pocket.

Minister McConalogue admitted there would be some costs on farmers under the new scheme due to its results-based nature.

One of the key measures in the scheme will be the low input permanent pasture option that was included in GLAS.

The Minister believed €4,700 across 10ha would be an attractive payment rate.

He said a farmer who joins the scheme receiving a BPS payment at the national average of €260/ha and a category 1 ANC payment would be receiving more than €800/ha on the first 10ha.

This would be “before they put a sheep, lamb, cow or calf on that”, Minister McConalogue said, classing it as a “good start”.