The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has said that the new Results-Based Environmental Agri Pilot Project (REAP) should not be used as the template for a new agri-environment scheme after 2023.

REAP is a pilot project which the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine envisages as a ‘trial run’ before a new and more expansive scheme – a replacement of the Green, Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) – is set up when the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) comes into effect in 2023.

However, the reaction to REAP by farm organisation has been mixed so far, with the categories of farmers being included – and excluded – coming in for criticism.

“We now have confirmation that the scheme will reward farmers with a derogation while those doing the most amount of good for the environment, particularly in designated areas, are being excluded.

“It is just wrong to have agri-environment money going to farmers who require a nitrates derogation,” ICSA president Dermot Kelleher claimed this morning (Friday, April 23).

Kelleher, while acknowledging that the scheme was a pilot, argued that REAP should not be used a template to design the next agri-environment scheme under CAP.

“The importance of supporting and rewarding less intensive, low-income cattle and sheep farmers in any new agri-environment scheme cannot be overstated,” he said.

“Recognition must be given to those farmers who are doing the most to protect the environment, and who are on the lowest of incomes.”

The ICSA president reiterated the association’s stance that the next agri-environmental scheme should guarantee €15,000 for low-income farmers.

“These are the farmers who rely on such schemes to keep their farming businesses afloat. We will not stand for precious CAP funds to be diverted to the most intensive and larger scale farms, who are reliant on a derogation,” Kelleher commented.

ICSA reaction to taskforce

Kelleher was speaking the day after a sitting of the Beef Market Taskforce which, by all accounts, was a frustrating meeting for the farm organisations.

Kelleher’s ICSA colleague Edmund Graham – the association’s beef chairperson – expressed anger at the fact that representatives from individual processors hadn’t been invited to address the taskforce.

“[We] had specifically requested that individual meat processors be brought into the taskforce to answer serious questions about the uniform cuts to beef prices in February and to explain the huge differential between Irish and UK steer prices,” Graham said.

He also claimed: “We are not getting the answers we need from their representative body [Meat Industry Ireland]”.