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February 18, 2008

Relief for Farmers as Minister resolves REPS payment issues

Kildare farmers will be relieved by the news that the Minister for Agriculture has resolved the REPS issue according to the Kildare South Fianna Fail T.D. Seán Ó Feargháil.

“In discussions this morning the Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan has secured an important deal for Irish farmers as the Commissioner, Fischer Boel has agreed that Ireland can continue to pay REPS 2 and REPS 3 at the beginning of each contract year.”

“The Minister and her officials lobbied very hard on this issue and I know that the Minister is grateful that Commissioner Boel has recognised the on-going hardship by Irish farmers who had an expectation that they would be paid at the beginning of the contract year.”

“Since REPS was first introduced in 1994, the Department of Agriculture has paid the farmer at the start of each year of the five-year contract in recognition of the expense of necessary financial outlay to bring farms up to REPS standards.  It is a system which proved attractive to farmers and worked well.”
“REPS 4 operates under different EU regulations from previous versions of the scheme resulting change to the existing practice of paying the farmer at the start of each contract year.”  

“The Minister for Agriculture recognised that this would cause problems for Irish farmers so after explaining the situation to the farming organisations and with their encouragement, sought agreement from the European Commission to continue the existing system.”

“It was a shock when, without warning, the Commission informed the Minister in January that the Department had been wrong to pay REPS at the beginning of the contract year despite being fully aware of how the Department had issued REPS payments.”

“Up to this point the Commission had not indicated that the Irish Department of Agriculture should be doing any thing differently.”

“By the time the Commission informed the Department that it should not be paying Irish farmers up-front, more than €6 million had already been paid to Irish farmers in REPS.”

“The Department put further payments on hold while trying to resolve the issue with the Commission.”

“The Minister was quite rightly concerned about the knock-on effect that the delay in REPS payments would have for Irish farmers and the potential that their confidence in the EU and the REPS scheme might be damaged.”

“Now the farmers who have had their payments on hold since early January will get their money.”

“Commissioner Boel has no objection to the payments of REPS 2 and 3 contracts but discussions will continue in Brussels at official level regarding the new Commission Regulations governing payments under REPS 4.”

“I am confident that the Minister and her officials will continue to work hard and achieve results for Irish farmers,” concluded Deputy Ó Feargháil.