Eco schemes will bring significant change for farmers in terms of farm payments, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.
He told RTÉ's Countrywide this Saturday that eco schemes are a reflection of the higher level of environmental ambition in the CAP.
“Within the basic payment that farmers have been getting up until now, 25% of that will have to go towards eco schemes,” he said.
“Basically it’s a reflection of the higher level of environmental ambition that is there within this CAP and I think it’s important to note here as well that it’s something that farmers are very much up for and have provided a very strong lead on over the last number of years too.
“What’s really important is that as that happens that farmers are rewarded in terms of income for what they are asked to do but one of the changes in this CAP in Pillar I is the requirement for eco schemes.
“I’ve already engaged with farm organisations in relation to putting in place eco schemes which can work for farmers while delivering for the environment.
“So for example we’ll be giving a range of different options to farmers which they can choose from, whether that be for example reducing nitrogen input, planting groves of trees, hedgerow management, animal health and monitoring, biosecurity assessments, only to mention a few of the type of options that will be available to farmers.”
He said it was “really crucial” that farmers be rewarded for environmental work they do.
He said farmers’ appetite to provide ecosystem services was highlighted with the REAP scheme in the fact that it was oversubscribed.
“I think overall what we’ve achieved is a fair CAP and a flexible one, that gives the flexibility that it’s a farm friendly one.
“My objective now over the next weeks and months is to engage with farmers in every farmyard across the country and also to offer the opportunity as well to food consumers, and to bring this deal to every kitchen table in the country before it’s finalised and we submit our CAP strategic plan to Europe by the end of this year,” he said.
Between now and the end of 2027 there will be €10.7bn of a budget available for Ireland, within our CAP programme, the minister said. “Obviously how that is distributed then at national level and to what purposes that’s put is the key issue as part of our national CAP plan.”
He said that the issue of convergence will have to be finalised for that plan.
In the CAP deal agreed last week, member states will have to reach a minimum target of 85% convergence by 2026.
“There has been a principle under way over the last 20 years now at European level at bringing those payments down to an average level.
“Some farmers’ payments will go up, while some farmers’ payments will reduce and that obviously is something that farmers will take different views on, but the other thing here is given the fact that it will have an impact on farm incomes that we do get the opportunity to make decisions at national level in as far as is possible.”