The Results-based Environment Agri Pilot Project (REAP) closed for applications on Monday (May 10) – with the number of applications over five times the limit of participants.

It is expected that between 1,500 and 2,000 applicants will eventually be accepted into the scheme. However, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has confirmed that the number of applications received stands at just over 10,750.

As the scheme is oversubscribed, it it understood that ‘ranking and selection’ criteria will apply.

This will take into account a number of factors in determining which applicants make the cut.

These factors include: whether the farm intersects with a high status water area or low status water area; the proportion of Natura land on the holding; and the proportion of Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) land on the holding.

Apart from those factors, the geographical spread of applications will also be considered.

As it became apparent in recent days that the scheme would be oversubscribed, calls began for more farmers to be accepted into the pilot than originally envisaged.

Just this week, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) said: “The high level of applications from farmers is no surprise given the number who exited AEOS [Agri-environmental Options Scheme], and new entrants who had no environment scheme open to them.

“This shows that there is demand for environmental schemes among farmers,” said IFA rural development chair Michal Biggins.

“The budget of €10 million per annum is totally inadequate to cater for the demand… We are calling on Minister McConalogue to increase the budget to meet the demand, ensuring all farmers who wish to participate in REAP are given the opportunity to do so,” Biggins said.

Farmers will be informed by way of approval letters whether or not they have been accepted into the scheme. These are set to issue in the coming weeks.