Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
109. Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if discussions have taken place with the farm organisations on the revised arrangement for the REP scheme which will be submitted to the European Commission; if he will publish the revised arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29210/03]
The changes that I intend to make to REPS will require an amendment to the CAP rural development plan. There are procedures laid down in EU Regulations for making such an amendment. I have them in motion by making a formal proposal to the European Commission. The Commission services will determine, to some extent, the length of time it takes for the changes to be considered. However, my officials will do everything in their power to expedite matters. I have proposed to the Commission that the changes should be effective from 1 January 2004 and I will introduce the new scheme without delay following approval.
The proposals I have now sent to the Commission reflect the outcome of a wide-ranging consultative process on REPS that I launched in October 2002. My Department received over 50 written submissions that covered a wide range of issues. A series of meeting took place with the parties that made submissions. The consultative process culminated with an open forum on 4 June in which the various stakeholders took part, along with officials of my Department and the European Commission. The proposals I have made reflect the outcome of the consultative process and further detailed discussions with farm organisations. They include increased payment rates in line with the Government commitment in Sustaining Progress and provision to make REPS available for the first time to more intensive farmers.
One of my priorities in the new scheme is to make it simpler and more farmer-friendly. I have asked my officials to do everything possible to simplify REPS from the farmer's point of view and to reduce his or hers operational costs. There are many stakeholders in REPS as the consultative process clearly demonstrated. REPS must evolve to reflect the changing circumstances of farming and the changing expectations of society. The proposals I have sent to the Commission are designed to deliver increased biodiversity and tangible environmental benefits while offering a model of sustainable farming that will be accessible over time to the great majority of Irish farmers.
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