The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is being called on to explain the reasons for over half of the applicants to the Rural Environment Agri Pilot Project (REAP) not being accepted.

It was originally envisaged by the department that the pilot scheme would have around 2,000 participants. However, it was oversubscribed more than five times over, with just under 11,000 applications received.

Minister Charlie McConalogue announced last week that approval letters would be issued to 5,000 farmers, 3,000 more than the original target.

However, the department is now being asked to clarify the reason for excluding the 6,000 remaining applicants who will not receive approval letters.

Denis Drennan, the chairperson of the Farm and Rural Affairs Committee of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), said today (Wednesday, June 9): “We are hearing from farmers who have been informed this week by their agricultural consultants that their application to join the REAP scheme has been rejected.

“There were almost 11,000 applicants for the scheme and with 5,000 farmers being accepted, there are obviously a lot of disappointed farmers and that disappointment is being compounded by the fact that they are still unaware of the reason why their applications were not accepted,” Drennan added.

“This is simply unfair on the farmers in question and ICMSA believes that the department should write to each individual farmer clearly outlining the reason for their exclusion from the scheme.

“This information is obviously important so that farmers understand the reason for their exclusion and, just as importantly, can consider their options for future schemes,” he argued.

The ICMSA farm and rural affairs chair argued that the application numbers for the scheme “highlights farmers’ willingness to engage in environmental activity”, insisting that this willingness should be “matched by funding”.

“We have a Green Deal; Farm to Fork; and the Biodiversity Strategy but we’re going to need the EU and our government to match their policies to the appropriate levels of funding required to translate these initiatives into practice.”

Drennan urged the government to revise the number of accepted applicants upwards again and “show real commitment to matching and accommodating farmer efforts and interest on the environment”.