IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy has called on Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney to accept all applicants who applied for GLAS. The report that 500 of the 27,000 farmers who applied will be rejected as they did not reach the points threshold of 16.3 is totally unacceptable.
Flor McCarthy pointed out that the points system to gain entry was only communicated to planners three weeks before the closing date. “Some plans could not be adjusted with new measures added to reach the required threshold. The Minister must accept all applications, given the teething problems and the changes that were made throughout the application process.”
Mr McCarthy called for the early release of approvals to the 27,000 farmers who applied for GLAS by the end of May closing date. These farmers have to be approved in September, with payments in December, as per the Charter agreement. He has also called on Minister Coveney to open the next phase of GLAS in early September so that farmers have ample time to plan to get into the scheme and maximise their payments.
Flor McCarthy said that the priority for the Minister must be to get an additional 20,000 farmers into the scheme later this year so that the RDP target of 50,000 in the scheme in 2016 can be met.
The Rural Development Chairman said that in advance of opening the scheme, new specifications must be issued incorporating necessary changes highlighted by IFA. These include: changes to the geese and swan measure, a more practical approach for fencing under the grey partridge measure and more flexibility for the hen harrier measure. More needs to be done on other specifications as well as higher payments for Natura areas and measures for non-designated private mountain. Also GLAS+ being made more widely available for commonages and other areas.
In relation to the Targeted Agri-environment Output Scheme, Flor McCarthy expressed disappointment at the slow movement in getting the scheme rolled out. This will be an important scheme in Natura areas if the scheme is allowed to work. €70m is available in the RDP which means an average annual value of €14m. The Burren Farming for Conservation Scheme will be one of the schemes that will qualify with a doubling of funding up to €2m. IFA want the Targeted Output Scheme to apply to Uplands, Shannon Callows, Hen Harrier, Pearl Mussel and other areas that come forward with a proposal.