The incoming pilot agri-environment scheme will have an estimated average payment of “in or around” €4,700 – and will be based on 10ha with the idea of being accessible to farmers operating both large and small holdings, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has said.

The minister was speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine yesterday evening (Tuesday, March 30).

In response to a question from independent West Cork TD Michael Collins – who quizzed the minister whether environmental schemes will be “raised considerably” compared to the Rural Environmental Protection Schemes (REPS) of old, which he said had an average payment of €5,000, the minister said:

“The environmental schemes are really important anchor schemes within Pillar II and have had a very good success rate as well.

“In advance of now and the new CAP kicking off in January 2023, part of this year’s estimate [is] delivering a pilot agri-environment scheme, which we are currently engaged with the European Commission in terms of getting approval for.

The objective of that scheme would be that it would be paid and measured on 10ha of land.

“My objective in relation to that is to try and ensure that all types of farmers whether large or small have a full opportunity to engage in this scheme and to benefit to the fullest extent in terms of payments for that scheme.

The minister elaborated, explaining:

“A farmer with 10ha will have the same opportunity to earn an income through the scheme as a farmer with 100ac for example.

The estimate would be that the average payment under that scheme would be in or around €4,700 with the potential for a payment coming in at just under €7,000.

Highlighting that this will be a pilot scheme, and a results-based scheme, the minister added:

“Obviously it is very much subject to getting approval from the European Commission because you can’t actually run new schemes as such; you can run pilots in a transition period – so this is a pilot and it’s restrained by that.

“We also will be using the learnings from this particular results-based pilot to inform how we structure the next flagship agri-environment scheme which will replace GLAS and AEOS, and REPS before that.

“I will be engaging with farm organisations and farmers as well in relation to that new flagship agri-environment scheme, and the structure of it, and how we can best ensure that it achieves the policy objectives while importantly being user-friendly and delivering for farm incomes too,” the minister concluded.