FIANNA Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Michael Moynihan TD has said he is ‘stunned’ by revelations in the Irish Farmers Journal today that the Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney will not open an Agri-Environment Options Scheme this year.
Deputy Moynihan commented, “It is an absolute disgrace that after all his talk, Minister Coveney is now backing away from re-opening AEOS in 2012. Thousands of farmers who have recently come off REPS 3 have made plans based on the reasonable assumption that they could join AEOS this year. They have now been left high and dry and are facing a massive cut in their incomes.
“AEOS was re-opened with great fanfare in April 2011. Minister Coveney claimed at the time that it was on a reduced scale due to a failure by the previous Government to make financial provisions for it. This was a grossly misleading statement. Budget 2011 allocated €337 million to REPS/AEOS and yet only €277 million was spent. The Minister was subsequently forced to confirm to Fianna Fáil that his Department underspent on AEOS by €60 millon in 2011 and had an overall Department underspend of €220 million.
“Clearly the funding was available last year to protect AEOS and retain the maximum payment of €5,000. I have repeatedly asked the Minister to clarify what has happened to this funding surplus and what impact it has had on various schemes like AEOS.
“It is becoming increasingly evident that Minsiter Coveney is more concerned by protecting large farmers instead of the small and medium sized farmers who are in need of State support. It’s time for the Minister to stand up and be honest with farmers about his Department’s budget and the future of AEOS.”