The Environmental Pillar, an umbrella organisation that represents the Irish environment, has claimed that cancelling the AEOS scheme would be short-sighted. The group has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney TD, to open the AEOS scheme for 2011.
“The AEOS scheme provides superb value for money to the taxpayer, even in straitened times,” said Michael Ewing, a spokesman for the group. “Scrapping it would be very short-sighted. Ireland needs to be able to demonstrate that it has a strong policy on the delivery of public goods from agriculture if it is to defend its national funding envelope at the CAP post-2013 negotiations. AEOS is the best mechanism for this.”
The scheme provides a fund of €50m to Irish farmers to undertake practical projects to tackle climate change, protect and enhance water quality, and increase biodiversity on Irish farms. It also assists farm families to maintain traditional farming practices, maintain cultural landscapes, and provides important socio-economic support to less intensive farming practices.
Last year thousands of farmers undertook projects such as retaining species-rich grassland and extensive meadows, planting, coppicing or laying hedges, tree planting, planting orchards, fencing off watercourse and hedges, installing drinkers, using low emission slurry spreading techniques, sowing wild bird cover, maintaining stone walls, keeping rare breeds and various tillage options.
“The recent innovative Burren Farming for Conservation Programme (which funded farmers to produce rare and wild Burren flowers) shows improvements in biodiversity can benefit the tourist industry,” said Mr Ewing. “This is proof that investments in our environment can provide economic benefits.”
The Environmental Pillar was formed in 2009 when 27 national environmental groups agreed to a joint involvement in social partnership. It was one of the stakeholder groups that contributed project ideas to the Department of Agriculture for the AEOS scheme.