Despite all the hype, no budget has yet been confirmed for the new REPS, Tim Cullinan has highlighted.

Cullinan led a delegation including national rural development chair Michael Biggins and national hill chair Flor McCarthy to meet Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue about the new scheme on Wednesday.

“Drawing comparisons with the original REPS that was first introduced in the 90s will look like complete spin if the Minister doesn’t deliver a serious scheme,” Cullinan said.

“What farmers need is a meaningful scheme, with a base payment of €10,000. If the Government want to live up to their promises, they must deliver this.”

Meaningful payments

The IFA highlights that experience with results-based schemes to date has been positive though several conditions beyond a farmer’s control such as weather can have an impact on the results achieved which can have a negative effect on payment.

The Programme for Government stated there was to be €1.5bn over 10 years from carbon tax to fund a REPS-2 type scheme and this money to be in addition to CAP Pillar II funds.

IFA rural development chair Michael Biggins said the scheme must be opened immediately to deliver a meaningful payment in 2021.

“The IFA submission states that a specific menu option should be made available to all farmers in the scheme, giving them the choice of what best suits their farm, while maximising their payment and yielding an environmental return in line with the scheme objectives,” Biggins said.

Hill farming chair Flor McCarthy said that for over 20 years, Natura 2000 lands and commonage lands have been given priority entry into Agri Environment Schemes.

“This partially recognises the restrictions imposed on these lands and they must be given priority entry and higher payment rates in the pilot scheme and all future agri-environment schemes,” he said.