IFA Deputy President Eddie Downey has called on the Minister of Agriculture Simon Coveney to immediately intervene with his Department in the discussions about a collective agreement for each commonage, in order to establish minimum and maximum stocking levels for the total area of the commonage.
Speaking following a meeting with the Department of Agriculture in Athenry yesterday, Mr Downey said it is clear the collective agreement requirement will not work and IFA is insisting that it should be voluntary and not compulsory under various schemes in future. It is important that Minister Coveney takes a stance with his Department in advance of 14,000 letters being sent out to commonage holders throughout the country.
At the same meeting IFA’s Hill Committee Chairman Mr Fadian said the proposals by the Department of Agriculture offer no flexibility and the lead in time of two years is unachievable in the current farm income crisis hitting hill sheep farmers. “Farmers must be given sufficient time to get with the minimum and maximum stock level and this must take account of the difficult situation from farm to farm.”
Tom Fadian also pointed out that it is of paramount importance that a proper Agri-Environmental Scheme is put in place. “Since the loss of REPS and cut-backs to the Disadvantaged Areas scheme, farmers in hill areas have suffered greatly. There is now an opportunity for the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney to put in place a meaningful Agri-Environmental Scheme and the AEOS schemes must be seen as a temporary arrangement in advance of the next Rural Development Plan.”
In the next round of CAP the Minister must devise a specific Uplands Environmental Management Scheme which will ensure that sustainable stocking levels are maintained in these sensitive areas much of which is designated as SAC land. Restrictions are being imposed on hill farmers and it is vital that they get payments in order to maintain these important areas he concluded.