Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 6 December 2016

There's no way of glossing over this daft bureaucracy

Helen Harris

Published 26/08/2015 | 02:30

O'Toole Precision Farm Solutions contractor cutting oats for farmer Henry Nolan near Carlow on Thursday last week. The crop returned 3.5t per acre at 16pc moisture in excellent weather conditions. Photo: Roger Jones.
O'Toole Precision Farm Solutions contractor cutting oats for farmer Henry Nolan near Carlow on Thursday last week. The crop returned 3.5t per acre at 16pc moisture in excellent weather conditions. Photo: Roger Jones.

As tillage farmers we are used to making decisions very quickly. Whether that is to cut or not, or whether it is to sell green or dried.

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We are well used to weighing up the pros and cons and working out what we believe is the right decision. Sometimes its easy to be right and other times we get it completely wrong.

What is even more difficult, is to make decisions when you are not fully informed.

This happened in our case with GLAS. It was a case of too good to be true. It looked like a brilliant idea. We could help wildlife and improve our soil fertility.

We tried to get as much information as we could but there was very little information available beforehand.

When we went to the Teagasc meeting we were told on the night that we had 15 minutes after the meeting to make up our mind.

We decided to go with it, as we have areas on the farm that are not very productive and it sounded like a great idea to put these into something that would improve biodiversity or maybe take some hay off them.

We had to submit a plan, which we did, but we discovered that we would have to put a permanent fence down the middle of a fallow field. As we were using half the fallow as EFA's and half in GLAS.

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Then we were told that we would have to put up a fence around the stack of straw and fence off-road ways.

They would not accept the white poles - it had to be a permanent fence. I couldn't understand why - we have no livestock.

Then the price list of the catch crops came out and I nearly fell over. We had submitted this as one of our options.

At the rates that GLAS wants us to use, the seed alone, could cost between €35 and €220 per ha, depending on the mix used. That is before you cost in the machinery or contractor price to put it in the ground.

With the payment for catch crops at €155 per ha in GLAS this makes no sense.

At another recent meeting when Teagasc were asked could farmers not use home saved seed they said they could, provided they could show the invoice for the royalties they paid on it.

If you do not have all your paper work in order at an inspection or are missing an invoice, you will not only not receive your payment but you could also be penalised if you had received a payment.

You can also be penalised if the inspector does not believe you have sown the correct rate of catch crops. When Teagasc was asked, what if one seed doesn't grow well within the mix, the answer was the farmer can still be penalised.

If you want to let stock graze the catch crop as a fodder crop, you can only do that if you can prove you have storage facilities for farm yard manure.

Again, most tillage farmers wouldn't have these facilities, if they don't have livestock. We were not told of any of these rules prior to application.

When we realised that the most we could get is €5,000 before tax, we calculated that for us it is completely uneconomical.

We pay tax and are very happy to do so, but we would end up spending more money than we receive after tax on the GLAS scheme.

You also have to complete a one day course in year two. Why on earth would we go to all that trouble and inspections to lose money.

The bureaucracy involved is nonsense. We have withdrawn our application. I don't suggest for one second that anyone else should do the same.

I am simply highlighting all the complications of such a scheme.

I want other farmers to make sure the sums add up. I am very disappointed that a scheme that looked from the outside to be such a great idea has been ruined by a complete lack of common sense.

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co. Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer.

 hharris@ independent.ie

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