IFA President Eddie Downey said that the Minister for Agriculture’s statement clarifying some of the new rules governing stocking levels in commonages in the new CAP is long overdue. It is now important that the situation of individual farmers is addressed in the planned meetings and clinics which will now take place.
The delay in the clarification from the Minister led to a lot of frustration and anger on the ground. This had led to a significant level of misinformation, which did not serve the interests of farmers who urgently need to qualify for the various direct payments that are part of the new CAP.
Eddie Downey said that discussing the issues with farmers on the ground is the only way that problems can be identified – which they inevitably will be – and solutions found. This has been lacking from the Department of Agriculture in the recent debate and the clarifications now issue by the minister will be important to ensure that farmers are clear on where they stand in the new stocking regime.
IFA Hill Committee Chairman Pat Dunne said IFA will be meeting with the Commonage Implementation Committee under independent Chairman Joe Healy tomorrow in Athenry demanding solutions to deal with the many issues for farmers so as to allow eligibility for vital farm schemes such as the Single Farm Payment, areas of Natural Constraint payments and GLAS.
Pat Dunne said that hill farm incomes are under severe threat and the new rules being imposed must apply in a very flexible manner.
The IFA Hill Chairman said the removal of the minimum / maximum figures that were issued by the Department over 2 years ago is sensible.
He said farmers who have been farming and looking after their commonages over the past number of years must not be discriminated against and should not have to adjust their stocking levels. Farmers who want to increase numbers should be allowed to do so within the broad parameter of sustainable stock levels and in many instances at a very low level of stock.
Pat Dunne also pointed out that the management agreement to get into GLAS should be based on a common Plan drawn up with a Planner with farmers signing into that Plan. If the 50% of farmers and / or land area cannot be achieved then active farmers should not be discriminated against and IFA will hold the Minister to his commitment that all active farmers will get them into the new agri-environment scheme. In relation to GLAS and €2000 the top-up payments, this must be guaranteed to those who partake in the management agreement.
Pat Dunne said the priority for hill farmers is the early introduction of the GLAS scheme as many hill farmers will be leaving the REPS scheme at the end of the year.