IFA Hill Committee Chairman Tom Fadian has said the review of Commonage Framework Plans which is due to be concluded in September next must allow for a phase-in period over a number of years, and must be implemented in a practical way.
Speaking in advance of a meeting with the NPWS and the Department of Agriculture later this week, Tom Fadian said that famers were forced to destock their sheep first of all with a straight 30% cut in 1998 and then further destocking as a result of the Framework Plans in 2003. Changing the stocking regime at this stage cannot be done overnight.
While a review of the Framework Plan is welcome to Hill Farmers, nevertheless it has got to be done on a phased basis he said. Also, the practical implication in each commonage must be assessed as in many cases not all shareholders maybe farming the land due to its location or just that some shareholders have ceased farming. This must be taken into account in the stocking calculation at individual farm level, and only the land claimed for SPS should be regarded.
“Setting minimum and maximum stocking levels for each commonage must not discriminate against hill farmers who have difficulty in achieving the limits”, he concluded.