REPS-type scheme welcomed – but GLAS farmers must be looked after

While the proposed REPS-type scheme committed to in the Programme for Government is important, it must not distract from the need to avoid any gaps in payments for farmers in the existing Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) initiative, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Commenting, IFA Rural Development Committee chairman Michael Biggins said that, currently, the only definite for farmers is that 36,000 GLAS contracts finish at the end of this year.

The promise of a scheme – mooted to be similar to the previous Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) – which as yet there is no detail on could lead to uncertainty, the chairman asserted, adding:

The priority for an incoming minister for agriculture must be to guarantee that all farmers finishing GLAS later this year will be in an agri-environment scheme next year, whether this is a continuation of GLAS or this proposed REPS-type scheme.

“The IFA has made it very clear that a REPS-type scheme must deliver payment of €10,000 per annum,” he claimed.

Biggins also said that the new REPS-type scheme will be funded from the carbon tax and will be worth €1.5 billion up to 2030. However, it is unclear how much funds will be available next year when the scheme is due to start.

“The current GLAS scheme is worth about €1.45 billion in the current seven-year Rural Development Plan.

The new government needs to be clear that the €1.5 billion from the carbon tax is ‘new money’ and will be in addition to the existing funding for GLAS and other schemes.

The chairman said that at a meeting with the Department of Agriculture last week, IFA stressed the need to get early agreement on the EU CAP transitional rules.

This will allow the extension of GLAS contracts for a year or two before the new CAP, he added.

“There must be no gaps in payments. Gaps occurred in the past, and these had a detrimental impact on farm incomes,” Biggins concluded.