IFA President Eddie Downey has called on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to immediately come forward with the payment rates across the various GLAS measures, and to ensure that the scheme has a meaningful impact on the incomes of low-income farmers.
Eddie Downey said, “Thousands of low-income farmers have had no agri-environment scheme available to them in 2014 and many more will finish REPS 4 at the end of this year. The REPS scheme played a key role in sustaining farmers in many regions and it is vitally important that the new GLAS plays an equally meaningful role over the next number of years”.
The IFA President said that with 30,000 places available in GLAS, it is critical that the Minister opens applications for the scheme in September next, with plans commencing on 1st January next and payments later in 2015. The scheme must not discriminate against any section of farmers, but the focus should be on those with low incomes.
In relation to commonages, Eddie Downey said that the Minister must realise that his 80% stocking rule for priority access to the scheme will not work and must be taken off the table. “Stocking levels must be established for commonages based on local consultation and not by a rule imposed, and not be dependent on the GLAS scheme to deal with this issue. The promise of discussions on this matter must be honoured.”
Eddie Downey pointed out that the Minister for Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan must put in place a compensatory scheme for Natura areas where restrictions are imposed. “Farmers with Natura land must be given an option of the NPWS farm plan scheme or GLAS. The allocation of €5m in NPWS budget must be maintained and Minister Deenihan must give a commitment in this regard.”