Collective penalties proposed in new commonage rules
Controversial new rules proposed for commonages would see all shareholders in a commonage penalised if just one breaks the good farming practice rules.
Draft proposals in the pipeline from the Department of Agriculture will require what is known as 'collective agreement' by all commonage shareholders.
Under a collective agreement, each shareholder in the commonage will be issued with both their individual minimum and maximum stock numbers, but also the commonage minimum and maximum stock numbers.
The shareholders will be required to sign a document undertaking to adhere to both their individual and commonage stocking rates. However, if one or more shareholders reneges on the deal and flouts the rules on good agricultural environmental conditions (GAEC), all shareholders in the commonage will have penalties applied to their Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) payment.
The collective agreement policy will also require farmers to work with a trained facilitator, who will most likely be a Teagasc or private agricultural consultant in the area.
The proposal has been tabled by Department of Agriculture officials following a review of the Commonage Framework Policy.
It is understood that Department officials plan to implement the new collective agreement within two years.
ICMSA farm services and environment chairman Patrick Rohan warned that the proposed policy would unfairly penalise farmers who were abiding by the rules.