Seán O'Citizen's Guide to REPS


The REPS scheme is one of the big talking points amongst farming people at the present time and indeed, there is an awareness of it in a large cross section of the community. There are many views expressed as to its purpose and usefulness by those in many walks of life. Some would see it as paying farmers to do work which is part of everyday farming practice. Some would see it as imposing restrictions on their independence and way of life. Perhaps somewhere, in between, the real facts lie. At present time there is an emphasis on the protection of the environment such as we have never seen before. A lot of pressure is coming from the E.U., and people involved from the European mainland have seen their own countries ravaged by industrial effluents, emissions from coal and oil fired power stations, not to mention the fallout from nuclear facilities.  Added to all of this, their natural habitats and wildlife refuges have been destroyed. Several species of Flora and Fauna have simply disappeared. The type of intensive farming practices, for example in Holland have also added to the problem. The indiscriminate use of sprays and insecticides is also a serious factor.
Against this background is it any wonder that a great many of right minded people have cried stop. Our future and the future health and welfare of our children and our children’s children is at stake.

We should never forget the controversy caused by the anti nuclear campaign in the ‘50s and ‘60s and the stand taken by these courageous people which helped bring to an end the aerial testing of nuclear devices. In this country, we have an environment which is largely unspoilt and it can safely be said to be the envy of our European partners. It is no exaggeration to say that they see it as a refuge from the desolation caused in their countries, and a place to go for peace and tranquillity, not to mention clean air and water and a Panorama which is pleasing to all the senses God gave us. When we look at the facts we should become more aware of our responsibility for cherishing our gifts of mountains, rivers and streams, bogland and wildlife habitats. From time immemorial farmers, have been the custodians of this heritage and it has to be said that they have handed us a wonderful gift. For the first time ever funds are available which will help them play their part in preserving and enhancing our rural amenities. We will take a look at the requirements of the scheme and the advantages to be gained. The pollution of rivers, streams and underground water sources will have to be controlled. Poaching of land and pollution of farmyards will have to be avoided. All unsightly items such as plastic, old pallets and wrecked cars should be taken to the dump or sent to be recycled. The major requirements of this scheme are  beyond the scale of the article, but it should be said that what is said is not unreasonable.

We now come to the question of who should apply. The answer would have to be just about everybody. A number of farmers seem to be of the opinion ‘this is not for me-I couldn’t meet the requirements.’ There seems to be a negative attitude on the part of some people, and there is also a certain amount of misinformation at large. The financial incentives available should encourage farmers to apply and help is available from Teagasc advisers. The scheme will cost £230 million up to 1997 - no mean sum of money! One of the great things about the scheme is that once approval is given the first year’s payment is made in advance. Whilst in some cases substantial building work may have to be undertaken, changes in farming practices may alleviate this requirement to some degree. One should also contemplate the social implications of the scheme.

The payment of the funding available will be a huge boost to our local economy. The considerable inflow of hard cash will be of benefit to our towns and villages, as a consequence of the purchase of goods and services to meet the requirements of the scheme. The implications of GATT should not be forgotten. This is no guarantee that the price of farm produce will be maintained at present levels. On a lighter note, it can be said that the debate on REPS, has generated a certain degree of heat and the resultant temperature has created a demand `for refreshing liquid, which goes down best while perched on a high stool with a counter in front for support. It has indeed been argued that such an environment has led to an almost miraculous recovery of those involved and the ability to go on discussing more serious matters of hurling and football.

Finally, the message of the article is, consider joining. Talk to people who have  already participated and indeed in a lot of cases collected funding for their efforts. Contact your local Teagasc office and get the ball rolling. Remember, a car salesman never tells you that you cannot afford one.

Maybe you can’t afford not to be in REPS - You owe it to yourself and to your environment.

Paul Thompson for the Athenry Journal June 1995

    

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