Dept rows back on commonage rules
The Department of Agriculture appears to be rowing back on its proposed 'collective agreement' rules for commonage farmers.
A draft letter outlining the new rules, due to be sent to commonage farmers this week, has been shelved by Department officials in the face of an hugely negative reaction from farmers.
The letter would have outlined the minimum and maximum number of ewe equivalents (EE) required to graze each commonage. It also included a draft agreement for each shareholder in a commonage to set out their 2013 stock numbers. The draft letter also warned farmers that not abiding by the declaration could impact on their single farm payment and other payments.
It is believed that a review of the proposed rules will re-examine the minimum and maximum stocking rates and the lead-in time for implementing those stocking rates.
A Department spokesman said it was now considering an implementation plan that would take account of changed stocking levels for the commonages.
"We are trying to reconcile the reality of commonages with the EU requirements of Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC). The Minister and the Department will work with the farmers, farm organisations and others to design a practical solution," he added.
Farm organisations have welcomed the decision to delay the letter and called for a complete re-think on the rules.