Thousands of farmers in Co Donegal and across the North West have been left high and dry by after the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney today confirmed that there will be no Agri-Environment Options Scheme this year, it was claimed today.
Donegal North East Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue has said he is stunned by the revelations, which demonstrate Minister Coveney’s poor regard for smaller farmers.
Deputy McConalogue said: “It is an absolute disgrace that after all his talk, Minister Coveney is now backing away from re-opening AEOS in 2012. Farmers across Co Donegal who have recently come off REPS 3 have made plans based on the reasonable assumption that they could join AEOS this year. They have now been left high and dry and are facing a significant cut in their annual incomes.
“AEOS was re-opened with great fanfare in April 2011. Minister Coveney claimed at the time that it was on a reduced scale due to a failure by the previous Government to make financial provisions for it. This was a grossly misleading statement. Budget 2011 allocated €337 million to REPS/AEOS and yet only €277 million was spent. The Minister was subsequently forced to confirm to me in Parliamentary Questions that his Department underspent on AEOS by €60 millon in 2011 and had an overall Department underspend of €220 million.
“Clearly the funding was available last year to protect AEOS and retain the maximum payment of €5,000. It is becoming increasingly evident that Minister Coveney is more concerned by protecting large farmers instead of the small and medium sized farmers in Co Donegal and across the country who are in need of State support. It’s time for the Minister to stand up and be honest with farmers about his Department’s budget and the future of farming schemes.”Tags: