Commonage farmers see red at GLAS'sell-out'

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The IFA leadership has been accused of selling out hill and commonage farmers throughout the country by agreeing to the Department of Agriculture's proposals for the new GLAS scheme.

A serious rift has now emerged within the IFA over the association's acceptance of a collective agreement on commonages and reduced payments on Natura land.

In a letter signed by 12 leading IFA members in the west and which is carried in today's Farming Independent, hill farmers representatives accuse the association's national leaders of weakness in negotiations with the Department on the Rural Development Programme.

They also accuse the leadership of ignoring the IFA position on collective agreements on commonages which had been agreed at regional meetings.

"IFA at a National level moved their position initially from being totally opposed to a collective agreement on the commonages, to agreeing to a 50pc collective agreement and accepting a payment of €79/ha on Natura land instead of the €150/ha which was approved by European Commission as the cost of Natura designations.

"All of this was done without consultation with the Hill and Rural Development committees of the IFA who had given a clear mandate to reject any form of a collective agreement," the letter states.

It goes on to claim that at a meeting held in Athlone in May "it was made crystal clear" that any form of collective agreement would be "totally unacceptable as Tier 1 priority entry to the GLAS Scheme."

The letter maintains that this position subsequently "became IFA policy".

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"The shift in position by the negotiation team on the collective agreement who gave in to the Minister during final talks on the Rural Development Programme, has shown weakness and total disrespect for the root and branch protocol which the association takes pride in as being their strength on the ground," the letter goes on to state.

"The failure of the IFA negotiating team to stick to what is a redline issue for commonage farmers, has led to a lack of confidence and trust by the grassroots of the organisation and has undermined the credibility of the county representatives who have worked hard on these farmers behalf," it added.

Under the current proposals 50pc of farmers on a particular commonage will have to sign up to a plan in order to get priority access to GLAS.

Hill and commonage farmers question whether agreements can be reached among commonage shareholders and they believe it will make it very difficult for them to join GLAS.

They also fear that the minimum/maximum stocking rates for each commonage may now be qualifying criteria to draw down Pillar 1 payments.

The signatories of the letter claim that changes to the Rural Development Programme can still be made and they have called for the removal of the collective agreement clause.

Those who signed the letter include Colm O'Donnell, IFA national rural development vice chairman, county hill chairmen Martin Gavin, Mary O'Boyle, Joe Kane and Shane McKeon, Connemara regional chairman Brendan Joyce and Sligo farm business chairperson Theresia Linsbod.

Indo Farming


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