Following a meeting of the National Hill Committee, and recent discussions with the Department of Agriculture, IFA Hill Chairman Pat Dunne said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney will have to set out the framework to planners to allow them carry out commonage plans that contain flexibilities for farmers.
Pat Dunne reminded the Minister of the commitments given to IFA before the Rural Development Plan was submitted to Brussels that no farmer would be excluded from GLAS. “Commonage farmers must be given maximum flexibility to ensure that they can join the GLAS scheme. In addition, there may still be farmers who are in AEOS 2 and 3 who do not want to change over at the moment and the scheme must remain open in 2016 and 2017 for them.”
The Hill Farming Chairman said 4,000 commonage farmers have joined GLAS so far and 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 the end-of-August deadline for the completion of plans is too tight and will have to be extended.
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 planner must be given the opportunity to override the published figures on the Department website. To meet the stocking rate criteria under GLAS, farmers must be given a five-year period in which to achieve this.