If the REPS-type scheme proceeds as proposed by the Department, the Government will have failed in its promise to deliver a usable and effective agri-environmental scheme similar to the REPS standard, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has said.

Association president Pat McCormack said that the proposed scheme is in no way comparable to the previous REPS scheme, in which 66,000 farmers participated.

The ICMSA warns that participating farmers will be faced with a scheme involving high administration costs for little or no returns.

Minister intervention

McCormack said: “The reality is that farmers were sold a promise of the REPS-type scheme that operated from 1994 to 2009 and there was an enthusiastic response from farmers in that expectation.

“What is now proposed is a hugely disappointing scheme that is likely to be admin-heavy, with the resultant costs placed on farmers and actual returns for farmers that would be well below expectations.”

The ICMSA has called on the Minister for Agriculture to intervene and ensure that an engaged scheme based on the previous REPS model is put in place.

It has to recognise the contributions of farmers to environmental improvement

“That scheme should be administratively simple and provide options that will deliver environmental improvements to all categories of farmers,” McCormack continued.

“Fundamentally, it has to recognise the contributions of farmers to environmental improvement with a level of payment that makes the scheme a viable option for those farmers.

“The model proposed now does not do that and is therefore set up to fail.”