IFA President Eddie Downey has accused the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney of attempting to water down GLAS by excluding many farmers from the second phase of the scheme, as well as taking out some key measures and reducing the impact of others.
Eddie Downey said, “While the opening of the scheme in early October is to be welcomed, making the scheme available to an additional 10,000 applicants only is a major disappointment and will lead to the exclusion of many farmers from the scheme. Minister Coveney must revisit this and allow 20,000 farmers in the next phase”.
In the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme, 50,000 farmers were expected to join GLAS. With nearly 27,000 having already joined the scheme, this means that a further 23,000 places should be made available. Also, €1.4bn is available in the RDP over the lifetime of the programme.
At a recent meeting with the Department of Agriculture, IFA rejected many of the proposed changes and is now calling on Minister Coveney to intervene. IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy said, “Many farmers who planned to enter the scheme digitised out parcels for specific measures so they could join later this year. Before the scheme is launched within the next two weeks, IFA is demanding a reversal to these changes. It is clear if the Minister persists with this number, then the scheme will only take in Tier 1 farmers, to the exclusion of both Tier 2 and Tier 3 farmers”.
Flor McCarthy said that on the proposed changes to the scheme, removing some measures such as hedge planting and orchards will narrow the options for many farmers. Also limiting the low-input permanent pasture and traditional hay meadows to 5ha each will mean some farmers will get less money from the scheme. The flexibilities in the Bird areas will be of help to many farmers and allow practical farming to take place. Young farmers who set up in 2015 who were excluded earlier this year from applying must not be denied entry.
On commonages, IFA Hill Chairman Pat Dunne said the decision to extend the date for the completion of Commonage Plans is sensible and will not hold up payments due in these areas for those who have already joined later this year. The CMP at this stage requires a willingness to take part with a planner assigned which will allow commonage farmers to join the next phase of the scheme.