Wednesday 20 September 2017

Plans for commonage land 'unworkable'

NEW PLANS for the management of commonage land are unworkable.

That's according to Sligo IFA Chairman Eddie Davitt who said farmers could not accept the proposals in their present form.

About 14,000 farmers nationwide with commonage land are getting letters outlining maximum and minimum sheep numbers for grazing on their commonage land.

Commonage is relatively large unfenced areas, mostly in upland areas, shared by farmers for grazing.

Failure to comply with new stocking rates would result in a loss of money to farmers in their Single Farm Payments and Disadvantaged Area and Agri-Environmental Schemes.

The most contentious part of the new proposals is the so-called "collective agreement" approach.

This relates to the requirement for all farmers using a commonage to agree on the number of ewes each person will graze to ensure that overall commonage minimum and maximum rates are maintained.

Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry has condemned plans to introduce what he described as "a completely unworkable management system which discriminates against active farmers with commonage".

About 11% of the land in Sligo is commonage.

This amounts to 213 commonages.

The lands are in the townlands of Laughil, Cloondrihara, Crowagh/Dunneill Mountain, Kilmactigue, Glenawoo, Gortnaleck, Letterbrone, Tawnalaghta, Rathgoonaun, Kings Mountain/Slievemore, Carrowreagh, Carrownacreevy, Cloonagh, Grangebeg Barr, Culdaly, Carha, Kilcummin, Tullyvellia, Lyle, Glencarbury, Keelogyboy, Carroward, Carronaleck, Doonflin Upper, Aughamore Far, Caltragh, Sessuegarry, Kincullew, Derreens, Carrowmore, Castleore, Tullyvelia, Carrowneden, Toomour, Crossboy, Treanmacmurtagh and Cloonacool.

Mr. Davitt explained that if a Department of Agriculture official ruled a particular area was overgrazed, all farmers on the commonage would be penalised when, perhaps, only one farmer, or a farmer from another commonage, might be at fault.

Mr. Davitt said that since the last changes in commonage management 14 years ago, some people had left farming.

"People got destocked as well as the sheep," he said.

Now, he said, the farmers who remain needed encouragement.

He added: "The people who are out there farming the hills know best.

"Maybe now that maximum and minimum stocking rates have been established, we will be able to work toward that in coming years.

"But it's not right that every farmer is penalised because one does not comply."

A situation could also arise where farmers would have to buy many more sheep to reach stocking rates, resulting in huge cost to these farmers.

The purpose of the new regulations, which must be met within two years, is to bring all commonages back to good agriculture and environmental condition (GAEC).