GLAS falls far short of targets
Published 29/04/2015 | 02:30
GLAS looks set to miss its targets by as much as 50pc, with just one third of the targeted 30,000 farmers progressing their applications to the new environment scheme's second phase, according to the latest figures from the Department of Agriculture.
The deadline for final applications is less than four weeks away, and insiders predict that the current rate of 2,000 applications per week will tail off during the last week, because most applications are taking more than a week to process.
If this transpires, the scheme will receive less than 25,000 applications, which are unlikely to yield more than 15,000 completed submissions.
As recently as last week, the Department of Agriculture were reported to be still confident that they would hit the target of 30,000 participants in the first year of the scheme.
In addition, it appears increasingly likely that the average payout will be significantly lower than the €5,000 that the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, had promised farmers.
Many planners report that average payments will be closer to €3,000 than €5,000, or €7,000 that was ear-marked for commonage farmers.
Indeed, the participation rate among commonage farmers appears to be worryingly low, with less than 20pc of the country's 15,000 commonage farmers having initiated an application two thirds of the way through the application window.
The figures emerged in response to Dáil questions tabled by Fianna Fáil's Éamon Ó Cuív.
Minister Coveney had been hoping that every commonage farmer would participate in the scheme that is designed to replace both REPS and AEOS.
The commonage application rate in the midlands is even lower, with an average of just 7pc of commonages expressing any interest in the scheme in counties Meath, Westmeath, Offaly, Kildare, and Monaghan.
There were no applications registered in either Meath or Monaghan by last week, despite the presence of 15 commonages in the two regions, while only two of Westmeath's 26 commonages have begun the application process.
Minister Coveney has stated that his Department was budgeting to pay out up to €250m per year through the scheme.
Even with a lower target of €150m for the first year, it appears increasingly likely that the programme will achieve an annual underspend of close to €100m. While this will represent a saving to the national exchequer of approximately €50m, it would result in €50m of CAP funding being returned unspent to EU coffers.
"The reality of how unsuccessful this scheme looks set to be is hardening every week for the Minister," said Deputy Ó Cuív.
"Even with the most optimistic projections, the scheme will barely take in half the numbers that were supposed to benefit from it.
"This was supposed to be the scheme that was going to underwrite farming in the western regions. But it is only a shadow of the €12.5bn package that we heard the Minister outlining last year. It could end up short-changing rural Ireland to the tune of €500m over the seven year Rural Development Plan," he said.
The figures provided in the Dáil last week showed that 17,739 initial applications had been received by the Department, with 10,590 or 60pc having registered actions for their application.
Mayo has registered the most interest so far, with 2,143 initial applications. Galway had registered 1,948, while 1,642 had applied in Donegal.