IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy has called on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to give a definite date for the re-opening of GLAS in the autumn to give farmers ample opportunity to join the scheme. This follows confirmation that 27,000 joined GLAS before the end of May closure. IFA is insisting that all of those farmers are accepted into the scheme.
Flor McCarthy said payment must follow in December for the period of time farmers are in the scheme as the loss of REPS payment in 2015 is a major blow to farm income. The 3 month payment for 2015 announced by the Minister is disappointing as the approval of GLAS plans in the month of September would allow 4 months payment to be made. Every month a farmer is in GLAS is worth over €400.
The Rural Development Chairman also pointed out the aim must be to have 50,000 farmers in the scheme in 2016 and having an allocation in next year’s Book of Estimates of at least €220m. IFA recently met the Department of Agriculture to look for some further changes to the scheme before it reopens. These include some technical issues including specifications, changes to the Grey Partridge scheme and splitting of parcels.
On commonages, Hill Chairman Pat Dunne said with 4,000 farmers having so far joined GLAS many more will join the scheme when their AEOS 1 plans are completed at the end of this year. The priority now for the Department is to get the commonage planning process underway with the issuing of guidelines to Planners.
Pat Dunne said commonage farmers must be given maximum flexibility to ensure that they can join the GLAS scheme. There may still be farmers who are in AEOS 2 and 3 who do not want to change over and GLAS must remain open in 2016 and 2017 for them.
The Hill farming leader also pointed out that the stocking level to gain entry at both the minimum and maximum level must be applied in a flexible manner. The 5 year plan of GLAS must be the window for all commonage to meet the stocking rate criteria.