Adoption of REPS proposals delayed

Ireland: The formal adoption of Ireland's proposals for a new Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) has been delayed by the European Agricultural Structures (STAR) Committee.

Final approval for the scheme at this week's committee meeting was signalled and had been widely anticipated.

Farm Minister Joe Walsh said he was disappointed at the inability of the STAR Committee to formallly adopt the proposals, but he was pleased with the confirmation from the Commission that, when the scheme is introduced, all farmers with a start date or anniversary date on or after March 1, 2004, will be able to benefit from the improved terms of current proposals.

Following discussion on a technical issue raised by another Member State on the Irish proposal, the STAR committee chairman deferred the vote to the next meeting pending clarification by the commission's legal services of the issue raised. The problem is linked to the placing of a limit on the payable area and to legal interpretation of the regulations since the Commission approved the current REPS in November, 2000.

Mr Walsh said he was disappointed with this outcome, especially as Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler had co-operated fully in progressing the Irish proposal.

He said his officials will be in contact immediately with the Commission to ensure that the issue raised will be fully addressed in time for the next STAR meeting.

This technical delay will not mean any loss to existing REPS farmers or any farmers whose application for REPS is currently being processed, he said.

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