IFA Hill Committee Chairman, Pat Dunne, has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, to allow maximum flexibilities for commonage farmers to avail of the GLAS scheme. He also called for the scheme to be opened so that there is sufficient time for planners and farmers to apply before the closing date in mid-2015.
The IFA Hill Chairman, again reiterated the IFA 12 point plan, which has set out practical steps for the effective implementation of the GLAS scheme in commonages, as well as other supports which are vital to sustain farming in these very vulnerable areas.
- That the GLAS scheme opens without delay so that contracts can begin at the earliest possible date in 2015 with payments being made later in the year.
- That a strong Government commitment is made to pay significant GLAS payments in 2015.
- That the instructions to Planners following the training courses allow for the new commonage rules to be implemented in a flexible way.
- The Minister must ensure that Teagasc remain involved in commonage plans as many farmers already have contracts with them.
- The Commonage Management Plan must be simple and should be administrated and paid for by the Department of Agriculture with Planners contracted to carry them out.
- The criteria to qualify for the Single Farm Payment which does not now require a stocking rate, must not be more onerous.
- In relation to the minimum stocking level for GLAS there must be a flexible arrangement based on what the Planners determine as a reasonable timescale and involve individual stocking arrangements between farmers.
- In relation to the GLAS Management Agreement maximum flexibility must be given to farmers who can’t achieve the 50% active shareholders.
- The Commonage Implementation Committee must be in a position to deal with cases which have difficulty reaching the 50% of active shareholders within a 2 week period so that there is no hold-up in the application for GLAS.
- Farmers in commonage areas must be allowed to be eligible for GLAS+ in all areas not just those where there is a priority environmental asset.
- The GLAS targeted output scheme must be implemented in commonage areas when tenders are open for application in 2015.
- A special Hill Sheep Knowledge Transfer measure including a payment of €1,500/farmer should apply in hill areas to help to get a better economic return for sheep farmers.
Concluding, Pat Dunne said the priority for Minister Coveney is an early opening of the GLAS scheme. As problems, which will inevitably arise, given the complexity which exists in commonage areas, the commonage implementation committee must be given a key role in resolving issues.