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Agri-Environment Plans: Protecting the Rural Environment

Requirements
Following the Mid Term Review of the CAP in 2003, all farmers will be required to manage their farm in an environmentally friendly manner in order to qualify for their annual EU support payment (effective from 2005).

Farmers who are participating in the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) are already doing this by farming in accordance with their agri-environmental plan. REPS is an integrated whole farm approach to minimising environmental damage while farming productively.

Background
Prior to the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 1992, the main focus of those involved in agriculture (i.e. farmers, advisors, policy makers and educators) was on increasing production. This goal was pursued to the near exclusion of any other concerns.

Since 1992, the CAP has incorporated the concepts of care for the environment and sustainable farming practices as core elements of its policy of supporting farmers.

The enforcement of these concepts was stepped up in 2001 when the Department of Agriculture and Food introduced the legally binding Code of Good Farming Practice. Farmers who do not adhere to the Code will have their EU support payments reduced, temporarily suspended or permanently removed (depending on the nature of the breach of the Code).

Putting the agri-environmental plan into action
A typical plan contains measures to achieve the following:
Minimise nutrient loss (nutrient management plan)
Protection of soils (grassland management plan)
Protection of watercourses and wells
Retention of wildlife habitats
Maintenance of farm and field boundaries (e.g. hedges, walls)
Protection of features of archaeological and historical interest
Maintain and improve the visual appearance of the farm and farmyard
Protection of tillage field margins

Paul Bell is a Department of Agriculture and Food approved REPS planner. To contact him with your enquires on Agri-environment plans contact details as follows info@paulbell.ie or call +353 41 98255994

Case Study 3: Agri-environmental plans
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Newtown, Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland Tel/Fax: 041 9814751 Email: bellagri@eircom.net