IFA president Tim Cullinan has said that the Department is drip feeding out details of the much-hyped, so-called ‘REPS-2’, calling it a complete sham compared to the original Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS).

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue told the Sligo IFA AGM on Monday night that the pilot scheme would be paid on a farmer’s first 10ha and would have an average payment of €4,700 under the scheme, with a potential maximum of just under €7,000.

At the Oireachtas agriculture committee, the minister admitted there would also be some costs for farmers under the new scheme due to its results-based nature.

“Slowly but surely, the mask is slipping on this scheme and what is emerging is a fundamentally different scheme to the original one – it’s a complete sham and a political con job,” he said.

IFA rural development chair Michael Biggins pointed out that the scheme has now been quietly renamed the pilot results-based scheme (REAP) and is nowhere near delivering on the promises made in the programme for government.

“What farmers need is a meaningful scheme, with a base payment of €10,000. The scheme must be open to all farmers not currently in GLAS. Measures must be sensible, practical and not add unnecessary costs to farmers. If the Government wants to live up to their promises, they must deliver this,” he said.

Biggins said the programme for government stated that there was to be €1.5bn over 10 years from carbon tax to fund a ‘REPS-2’ type scheme and this money is to be in addition to CAP Pillar II.

“Given the way this scheme has been handled, I have grave doubts about the Government’s genuine intentions on this commitment,” he said.

European Commission is driving up fertiliser prices

The IFA believes that the European Commission’s decision in December to prolong anti-dumping tariffs on the import of Ammonium Nitrate from Russia for another five years has contributed to the recent hike in the price of nitrogen fertilisers. IFA farm business and inputs chair Rose Mary McDonagh said that the Commission had chosen to protect the profitability of European fertiliser producers while farmers face further decline in income due to higher input costs.

“In January, merchants were selling SulCAN at €205-220/t and this week prices are up at €240-270/t,” said McDonagh. “Irish and European farmers are paying over the odds for fertiliser. The European Commission is undermining the competitiveness of EU agriculture and destroying farmers’ incomes by enabling a dysfunctional fertiliser market in the EU,” she added.

The IFA has persistently campaigned for a fairer market for fertilisers, along with its colleagues in COPA, by opposing the renewal of anti-dumping measures which prevent the operation of a fair and transparent market.

Last year, the IFA wrote to Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski, highlighting “the need to see him come out and defend farmers’ livelihoods by demanding a fairer market for fertiliser inputs”.

“Anti-dumping measures on the import of AN and UAN fertilisers into the EU achieve just the opposite,” said McDonagh.

“Our highest cost is nitrogen, but fertiliser prices are artificially high, and farmers have no say in the matter.

“The Commission has to listen to farmers and recognise the negative economic impact on the users of fertilisers. The fertiliser industry is profitable enough; they don’t need further protection with anti-dumping measures,” concluded McDonagh.