Details of the Government’s much-promised and long-awaited agri-environmental scheme have begun to emerge and the reaction among farm organisations has been underwhelming.
Similarities between the Results-Based Environment Agri Pilot (REAP) and the old REPS scheme begin and end with the name.
The scheme will be more limited in scope than many had hoped for, with in or around 2,000 farmers expected to take part.
Farmers in GLAS and other agri-environmental schemes, such as the organic scheme, are automatically excluded. Those farming on commonage land or land with heather will also be unable to join the scheme.
Those farmers falling outside these brackets who wish to take part will be selected based on their stocking rate. There will be two categories – those stocked below 140kg N/ha and those stocked above 140kg N/ha.
Farmers will join the scheme through an adviser, with each limited to a maximum of 10 farmers. It will be up to farmers to cover the cost of the adviser.
The budget for the new scheme will be €10m for 2021, with a further €10m allocation expected in 2022. This will utilise the €20m in carbon tax funding set aside for agriculture in Budget 2021.
Farm organisations have been quick to point out that the programme for government committed €1.5bn from the carbon tax to a ‘REPS 2'-type scheme over the next 10 years.
The pilot will be instrumental in forming the basis for the next agri-environmental scheme in the new CAP. It appears the bulk of the carbon tax funds will be funnelled through this new scheme when it arrives in 2023.
The rate of payment under REAP is set to fall between €4,000 and €7,000, depending on the measures and actions farmers undertake. Payments will be limited to 10ha.
The entry level payment will be a €1,200 participation fee, on which farmers can add further actions.
The main one for most farmers will be the low-input permanent pasture measure. It will be paid at a rate between €250/ha and €400/ha.
The results-based element of the scheme will kick in at this point to decide the payment rate, with higher-quality pasture paid at a higher rate.
There will also be payments for multi-species swards, field margins and stone walls.
Tree planting will be encouraged and paid at a rate of €9.20 per tree.