Rural Environmental Protection Scheme
The rural environment protection scheme encourages farmers to introduce agricultural production methods compatible with environmental protection and protection of the landscape and features. The REPS 4 programme commenced in 2007.
The objective of REPS is to promote ways of using agricultural land compatible with
- the protection of the environment
- biodiversity landscape features,
- climate change,
- natural resources,
- soil, water quality and genetic diversity.
- environmentally favourable farming systems
- upkeep of historical features
- promote conversion to organic production
Where lands include areas designated for the preservation of birds and natural habitat, participating in Natura 2000 measures is mandatory to qualify for payments.
A participating farmer must farm at least three hectares of land either owned or leased excluding commonage and grazing rights. One hectare suffices in relation to certain small-scale fruit and vegetable producers.
An applicant other than a leaseholder or owner or a person other than the leaseholder or freehold owner may only participate if he is a family member managing the land and does so with the consent of the landowner or leaseholder.
A minimum stocking rate of 15 livestock units per forage hectare of animal in dairy farming or livestock production is required.A lower stock intensity require certification that it is appropriate for environmental sustainability
The applicant must be over the age of 18 years. The applicant must undertake to implement for a minimum of 5 years the below measures. All lands owned must be included in the agri-environmental farm plan. All lands must be declared on the single payment application. It is not permissible to create a farm unit for the purpose of claiming or increasing payments under the scheme.
Subject to conditions, land may be grazed by livestock owned other than by the applicant. However, the livestock taken must be managed by the REPS participant. Land grazing is restricted to a maximum of four consecutive months between 1st April and October 31st.
Grazing of sheep is permitted at any time subject to a maximum total of four consecutive months. A livery business may take in horses through the year. Livestock movements must comply with animal health and welfare requirements.
The following land is not eligible for participation in the scheme,
- land leased where the lease has less than 5 years to run from the commencement of the plan
- commonage unless cleared by the applicant on an area aid application / single farm payment in the preceding 5 years. There are exceptions to the conditions in certain limited cases
- set-aside as declared on the annual single payment application
- dwelling houses and associated buildings not used for farming
- land on which forestry premia are paid
- publicly-owned land
- public roads, lakes
- lands subject to turbary right.
- lands not declared on the single farm payment application form.
- lands not under the control of the applicant during the entire of REPS contract.
The REPS plan must be prepared by an approved planner. This may be Teagasc or a private consultant. The planner must draw for 5-year farm plan in consultation with the applicant. The application, form, plan, map and supporting documentation is submitted for approval
Participants must have a farm nutrient management plan in accordance with the Nitrates Directive. Participants must observe mandatory and supplementary measures in respect of the entire farm holding. The 11 core measures are required in respect of the entire holding for 5 years together with two additional undertakings to be available from a number of options.
The measures overlap to some extent with the cross-compliance obligations under the single farm payment.
- adhere to farm nutrient management plan for the entire farm
- adopt grassland and soil management plan for total farm
- protect and maintain watercourses, water bodies and wells
- retain wildlife habitats
- maintain farm and field boundaries
- restrict pesticides and fertilisers around hedgerows, lakes, ponds, rivers and streams
- establish biodiversity strips surrounding features of historical and archaeological interest
- maintain and improve the visual appearance of the farm and farmyard
- produce tillage crops respecting environmental principles
- undertake training in environmentally friendly farm practices
- monitor and update plan in consultation with the planner and keep records.
The requisite undertakings include the following
- conservation of genetic resources
- development of riparian zones provides habitat for flora and fauna that sustain food webs in the river ecosystem. The purpose is to provide shade to overly exposed designated river channels and water bodies to stabilise riverbanks of intercept nutrients
- land invested in nature, natural eco-pillage habitat
- maintenance of low input tillage crops
- importation of organic nitrogen
- traditional farm enterprises
- development of traditional Irish orchards
- traditional sustainable grazing in marginal areas; this is designed to contribute to the national biodiversity plan
- conservation of wild bird habitats
- restriction on fertiliser application near water bodies
- maintenance of traditional heritage buildings with the assistance of the Irish Heritage Council
The above are examples of measures by way of the implementation of the requirements.
Farmers must also choose a minimum of two biodiversity undertakings at least one of which is from category one. Farmers who farm over above 170 kg organic nitrogen per hectare must have a valid nitrate derogation and choose a minimum of three biodiversity undertakings. They must be renewed annually.
Participants in the Natura 2000 measure is mandatory for those with farmland based special areas of conservation, special protection area sand areas designated by the water framework directive.
There are category one and category two options in relation to
- grassland management,
- protection of watercourses,
- retention of habitats,
- maintenance of farm and field boundaries and
- production of tillage crops respecting environmental principles.
The classes of undertaking are published by the Department of Agriculture.
Payments may be made after a valid application. The application is made at the same time as the single payment application. For subsequent applications, a single payment application is made at the end of each recording year and an annual declaration is made.
Payments are subject to administrative checks and inspections. An annual declaration of compliance must be made. In the third year, compliance must be certified by an approved planner.
The rates of payment (2009) are as follows
- €234 per hectare up to 20 hectares
- €205 per hectare up next 20 hectares
- €82 per hectare for the next 15 hectares
- €10 per hectare on the rest
Higher rates are payable on Natura 2000 commonage and national heritage area land including
- €282 per hectare up to 40 acres
- €29 per hectare for next 40 acres
- €22 per hectare for the next 40 acres
- €5 per hectare for the remaining
Certain measures attract additional payments
- conservation of genetic resources €234 per livestock unit of registered breeds
- traditional Irish orchards €300 per holding
- riparian zones €850 per hectare to a maximum of 4
- LINNET project €700 first hectare, €400 per hectare of next 2.5
- low input tillage crops €370 per hectare; max 2.5 hectares
- minimum tillage €25 per hectare (maximum 40 hectares)
- traditional sustainable grazing €50 per hectare (max 20 hectares)
- clover swards €30 per hectare max 40 hectares
- mixed grazing €50 per hectare max 20 hectares
- lake catchments
- heritage building 75 percent grant assistance subject to a maximum investment of €25
- conservation of wild bird habitat €100 per hectare. The supplementary measures must be elected for from the outset in most cases
75 percent of the payment is made once the completed valid application is accepted. The remaining 25 percent is paid at the end of the year
Change to Plan & Repayment
Amendments to the plan may be required in relation to certain changes of circumstances or where the approved plan is found deficient. Where there is a change in the area farmed, the Department must be notified, and a new plan submitted within a certain period.
This applies where the area is increased by more than 2 hectares. A plan is required irrespective of whether the payments are claimed for the area. If there is an increase in the eligible area, the payment is adjusted.
In certain cases, aid may have to be repaid where, for example, the 5-year contract term is uncompleted. Reimbursement is not required
- where the land is to be included in another plan of an existing REPS participant and continues to be farmed in compliance with the scheme
- where the existing plan is continued for the remainder of the period by a non-REPS participant who has other land and the person takes over submission of the REPS application
- where the participant has ceased farming and completed 3 years
- where the existing plan is continued for the remainder of the 5 years by the person taking over the holding and fulfils certain conditions in terms of submitting the application
- where the lands are afforested
- where the area is reduced because the land is acquired under CPO
- where lands are transferred under a divorce or judicial separation or settlement.
It is mandatory for participants to attend approved training courses prior to the end of the second year. There are a variety of approved courses. The course must be attended by the participant.
Failure to comply may result in penalties and sanctions. The penalties may range from one percent to 50 percent depending on the breach.
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