Farmers’ Frustration with AEOS

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Deputy Paul Connaughton, speaking in the Dáil recently, raised the issue of the delayed AEOS payments with Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney T.D. during a debate on topical issues.

Deputy Connaughton said that delays in relation to AEOS payments were causing huge frustration for farmers in County Galway, many of whom are currently experiencing financial difficulties.

Speaking in the Dáil, the Galway East T.D. said, “In recent weeks I have been inundated with calls from farmers on the length of time it has taken to get payments such as REPS and AEOS payments, which have been through due process and paid out. It stems from a problem with the digitisation of maps and other issues and at this point it is difficult to understand how a new mapping system could be causing such lengthy delays. It causes great concern, anger and frustration among the farming community and I call the Minister to do whatever he can to rectify this issue as soon as possible.

“As the Minister and those who have knowledge of the farming community know, in many cases the money has already been spent, sometimes on compliance with the AEOS scheme or in the last number of months to purchase fertiliser or to make silage. This money may now be owed to contractors or co-operatives, putting huge financial pressure on farmers. Some farmers might also have family members at college who would be expecting this money in recent months and will have budgeted for it.

“Another issue causing great frustration is the lack of feedback from the Department. Many farmers who have been on to me submitted their applications many months ago only to find recently there is a problem with the application now. Surely this information should have been relayed to the applicant immediately, easing the frustration and the backlog in the Department? I suggest a lack of communication between relevant sections within the Department is causing this information blackout for farmers. Also, the way of communicating with the Department must be improved. Many farmers are being given a freephone number which leads them on a merry-go-round and leaves them with more questions than answers. They might have to telephone Portlaoise and then telephone another Department office, their file might be in one office and then they are told it is in another office. Instead of getting concrete answers, they are left asking where their files are and what point the application is at.

“The biggest fear amongst farmers is that this delay will affect other payments such as the single farm payment, which is of huge importance to the farming community, and I ask the Minister to make sure the first 50% of this payment is paid out on time.
Responding to Deputy Connaughton’s comments, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney T.D. said, “I am aware there is frustration and I have had multiple meetings in my Department to try to ensure that we remove barriers to quick decision making and to get information back to farmers as quickly as possible in all schemes. I am also aware there is a particular concern in regard to AEOS, where payments have begun. Up to 3,000 people have received their payment for the last three months of last year, which were due over the summer. We have significant and complex mapping problems which need to be rectified, and are being rectified. Payments are being made, as we speak, on a twice-weekly basis. We will continue to redouble our efforts to make sure that happens.”

“AEOS is a new scheme. It was put in place by the previous Government. It is a much more complex scheme to implement and map than REPS was, for example. REPS was a dream scheme in many ways. The new scheme has, unfortunately, resulted in complex mapping and digitisation issues, which have taken time to resolve. We have put more resources, effort and emphasis on getting those issues resolved as quickly as possible, and I will continue to ensure that farmers, many of whom need and want this money and are relying on getting it, will be paid as soon as possible.”