The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced that approval letters will begin to issue today (Friday, June 4) to 5,000 applicants selected to participate in the Rural Environment Agri Pilot Project (REAP).

This is 3,000 more participants than were initially envisaged for the scheme. Some 11,000 applications were received in total.

Commenting, the minister said: “I was delighted to see the huge level of interest and to be able to increase the participation numbers by an extra 3,000 above the initial proposal.

“I’d like to thank the European Commission for their engagement on this over last few weeks and for recognising the benefits of the project and we will continue to work closely with them on its implementation.”

Following consideration of the applications – and within the parameters of a ‘pilot project’ – approvals to participate will issue to almost 5,000 participants.

The minister said this will “lead to a significant level of training at farmer and advisor level”; and that it will also “ensure that the results-based scoring system is tested by a significant sample of Irish farms”.

The participants selected will now work with their advisors to score the land brought into REAP this year to establish its environmental and biodiversity status.

In conjunction with their advisor, farmers will undertake environmental actions to increase the environmental value of existing farm features with the aim of improving their ‘environmental score’ in year two of the pilot. Farms with the highest score will receive highest payments.

REAP is designed to provide an opportunity to test a results-based model on a national basis in preparation for the next agri-environment scheme to follow on from the Green, Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS).

Minister McConalogue said: “REAP will help demonstrate the environmental value and economic returns from specific farm measures and allows a more focused use of funding.

“I would encourage all farmers selected for participation to fully engage with the process by working closely with their advisor,” he concluded.