Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 20 April 2018

Coveney under fire as DAS left in limbo

Scheme is on hold after EU fails to approve proposed rule changes

DOUBLE JOY: Daniel and Rachel Maloney from Ardnacrusha, Co Clare, with their champion and reserve champion Limousins at the Agricultural show at Clonakilty, Co
Cork, on Sunday Photo: DENIS BOYLE
DOUBLE JOY: Daniel and Rachel Maloney from Ardnacrusha, Co Clare, with their champion and reserve champion Limousins at the Agricultural show at Clonakilty, Co Cork, on Sunday Photo: DENIS BOYLE

Martin Ryan

The Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) remains on hold after Brussels officials said they were not satisfied with Minister Coveney's proposed changes to the scheme.



Officials in DG Agri have sent a lengthy 10-page letter outlining the issues they have with the Department's of Agriculture's proposed changes.

In particular, they are unhappy with the contentious doubling of the minimum required stocking rates to 0.3LU/ha and the exclusion of land located more than 80km from the farmer's holding.

The letter states that these changes could "have a negative impact on the continued use of agricultural land, which is one of the main objectives of the measure."

The Commission has now requested a full analysis of the potential impact of these new conditions.

It also wants this compared with the impact of alternative approaches, such as "proportionate cuts applied to all [DAS] measure payments."

This latest development means that a new DAS scheme is unlikely to be approved until later this year, at the earliest. Close to 100,000 farmers submitted their applications for the DAS before the scheme closed in mid-May. The average payment to Irish farmers under the scheme was around €2,400 a year.

The uncertainty over whether the scheme is workable in its current format has caused a backlash against Mr Coveney, especially in western counties, where farmers are most reliant on the DAS to supplement low incomes.

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Martin Gavin, former Mayo County IFA chairman, said: "This minister has been a disaster for farmers in the west.

"His only concern appears to be support for the commercial farmer and he does not mind imposing cuts on the rest."

More than 5,000 small farmers in the four western counties of Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry who were paid €13m under the DAS in 2011 are ineligible to apply for any benefit in 2012, after Mr Coveney announced a doubling of the required stocking rate to 0.3 LU/ha.

The retrospective nature of this change, where stocking rates in 2011 automatically became qualifying criteria for the 2012 scheme, generated resentment among farmers who suddenly found themselves ineligible for this year's DAS.

Some were relying on exemption criteria to meet stocking level rules for other schemes. Farmers who have not met the stocking level for the scheme for 2012 by June 30 will not be eligible because of the increased six-month criteria.

In addition, stocking densities must now be based a 12 month average instead of three months. However, all of these changes hinge on the EU approving the application.

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