IFA Hill Committee Chairman Tom Fadian has called for flexibility in the review of the Commonage Framework Plans which will set down specific stocking levels on 7,000 commonages throughout the country, and which is expected to be in place from 2013.
Following a high level meeting between IFA and both the National Parks + Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture in Galway, Mr. Fadian said that farmers who will be allowed to increase stock numbers must be given sufficient time to meet the minimum stocking level which must be set at a practical level. Also, the maximum stocking level must be sufficiently high to allow those farmers, who have the capacity to attain these levels to increase sheep numbers.
The IFA Hill Chairman said farmers in commonage areas have been restricted with draconian rules for the past 10 years through the framework plans. Now that restrictions are being lifted it was important in the new stocking plan that sufficient timescale was put in place and cattle were reintroduced to the hills. It is intended that the new stocking levels will apply at LPIS level which in most cases will be the townland.
In parallel with the new stocking regime, Mr. Fadian is calling for a meaningful agri-environment measure for upland areas in the CAP post 2013. “A good start would be for the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, to reopen an AEOS 3 scheme immediately with a maximum payment of €5,000 and make a payment rate for Natura and Commonage areas of €150/ha.,” the IFA man said.
Concluding, Mr. Fadian said a further meeting with both Departments is planned in early April. He called for a more practical approach to the implementation of the new stocking regime to be put on the table by the NPWS and the Department of Agriculture in advance of the next meeting.