There has been an angry backlash among farm organisations to the results-based agri-environmental pilot (REAP) which had been billed as a REPS-style scheme and framed as an eventual successor to GLAS.
Tensions were high at a meeting between Department officials and farmer representatives on Thursday afternoon, where details of the new scheme were presented.
Farmers will be hugely disappointed by the scheme’s budget and the structure, ICMSA farm affairs chair Denis Drennan said.
It appears a sum of €10m has been allocated.
Drennan said the pilot was a “very far cry” from the version that had been spun. The overwhelming disappointment is the limited options available for all farmers, he said.
He said family farms stocked over 140kg/ha had been placed in a so-called group two, with a lower priority for access to the scheme.
“This is hugely disappointing and fails to recognise the need to support commercial farmers who wish to invest in environmental initiatives,” he said.
ICSA president Dermot Kelleher said he was shocked that the scheme was designed to exclude the vast majority of medium-intensity farmers to accommodate the most intensive derogation farmers.
“The proposal is to divide the applicants into two groups; one (farmers with less than 140kg N/ha stocking rate) of which will be selected on the basis of lowest stocking rate; and one (farmers with greater than 140kg N/ha stocking rate) which will be biased towards the highest stocking rate,” Kelleher said
“This is an incredible signal. The farmer who needs a nitrates derogation is welcome to claim even more money from CAP, whereas those who are less intensive are potentially ruled out.”
The focus is on low input pasture or on multi-species leys for intensive farmers, he said, and also includes extra money for planting trees and hedges.
There will also be higher payments for wider field margins and bonus payments for stone wall quality.
Tree planting is included at a rate of €9.20 per tree.
Kelleher said the upper limit of 10ha mitigates against a decent payment overall.
“In the low input grassland measure, the payment is between €250 and €400/ha on up to 10ha. This is combined with the participation fee (€1,200) and a possible complementary payment (for tree planting) up to €1,200.
“In that scenario, the overall payment is somewhere between €4,900 and €6,400.”
Outgoing Macra na Feirme president Thomas Duffy said while the pilot was a positive step for farmers, the largest downside was that not enough farmers would reap the rewards of the pilot project.
“Including farms over 140kg nitrogen is a positive step forward to demonstrate highly stocked farms can be environmentally positive. However, other elements of the pilot may need a rethink,” Duffy said.