Minister yields on 2012 DAS stocking rate rules
A major concession on the rules governing stocking rates for the Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) has been confirmed by the Department of Agriculture.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said he will relax the rules on higher DAS stocking rates for farmers who were part of an agri-environmental scheme last year.
It had been feared that commonage farmers, REPS and AEOS participants could lose their disadvantaged area payments this year because they did not meet the requirement to have 0.3 livestock units per hectare last year.
However, the rule changes announced by Minister Coveney mean these farmers can now meet the stocking rate criteria.
The minister also assured farmers that the €30m cut in DAS for this year, outlined in the Budget last December, would not involve any further cuts to DAS payment rates or any reduction in the maximum area payable (34ha).
Department officials are currently working on a new DAS proposal, which must be approved by Brussels before the scheme is cleared for co-funding by the EU. If this is accepted, every farmer whose stocking density was below 0.3lu/ha last year will be given the opportunity to apply for a derogation on the grounds that his stocking rate was a result of participating in an agri-environmental measure.
Farmers may also apply for a stocking rate derogation on force majeure grounds and the minister also hinted at special provisions for new entrants to farming.
Responding to questions at the IFA annual general meeting in Dublin last Wednesday, Minister Coveney also promised to include an appeals system for farmers on marginal land.