The new Protein Aid Scheme has seen the production of protein crops by tillage farmers surge by 300% this year, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney.

Peas, beans and lupins all qualify for the scheme and the Minister has announced that in order to fully utilise the €3 million set-aside for this Scheme, he has increased the rate of aid that will apply in 2015 from €250 to €280 per hectare.

Referring to the importance of protein crops as a break crop in the context of crop rotation at the outset of the scheme, the Minister said the scheme now gave an incentive for the industry and all relevant stakeholders to grow this sector by developing crop varieties that are best suited for Irish conditions coupled with more stable market outlets.

He added that a consistent supply of protein, grown in Ireland, would potentially give Irish livestock farmers the opportunity to use more natively produced protein feed and to market their produce in higher value markets.

In addition, the EU Regulations give Member States the option to select from a listing of areas and features that will be deemed eligible as an Ecological Focus Area (EFA).

In selecting those potentially eligible areas and features, which he had decided to implement in Ireland, the Minister said that he ensured that features selected where the most beneficial to Irish farmers in meeting their EFA requirement and can also be effectively monitored and control in order to ensure that timely payments could issue to tillage farmers.