Hundreds of farmers from commonages and other vulnerable areas protested in Dublin today (Thurs) outside the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to highlight the lack of action on farmer concerns relating to the new GLAS scheme and the restrictions imposed in SAC areas. The protest coincided with the Minister for Agriculture taking questions in the Dail this morning.
IFA President Eddie Downey has called on Minister Simon Coveney to immediately address farmer concerns as the Rural Development Plan is due to be submitted to Brussels in the coming weeks.
Eddie Downey said there are outstanding issues to be resolved. These include clarity on the stocking of commonages, including farmer opposition to the unworkable collective agreement rule, payment levels for all GLAS measures, including the Natura designated area payment, and details of eligible items for grant aid under TAMS II.
Farmers were strongly critical of Minister Jimmy Deenihan, with the protest sending a clear message that there can be no restrictions without adequate consultation and compensation on all SAC and designated areas. IFA’s SAC Chairman Tom Turley said, “The two Ministers need to come forward with a plan to sort out designation issues, with an immediate commencement of inclusive discussions on the Commonage Framework Plan”.
IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy has also urged the Minister for Agriculture to change the GLAS ranking system in favour of low-income farmers and to remove any specific reference to an organic nitrogen limit in the selection criteria. The GLAS scheme as proposed by the Minister is discriminatory and will result in many low-income farmers not qualifying.
“There should be no reference to such categories within the GLAS criteria. All farmers, and in particular those who are on low incomes, must get priority.”
On hill farmers, Pat Dunne Chairman of the IFA Hill Farming Committee said that other than the commonage issue, he wants to see meaningful engagement on the stocking rules, a higher GLAS payment in hill areas, higher ANC payments and a specific measure for hill sheep under the knowledge transfer criteria.