Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

ó Cuív to launch 'fairer' GLAS counter-proposal

Eamon O Cuiv is to launch
Eamon O Cuiv is to launch "a fairer mechanism" for distributing payments. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Darragh McCullough and Declan O'Brien

OPPOSITION is mounting against the new environmental scheme launched by Minister Coveney last week.

GLAS is designed to replace REPS and AEOS, with a maximum payment per farmer of €5,000, along with top-ups for those working in very sensitive areas.

But opinions are divided about the attractiveness of the scheme, with Fianna Fail's agriculture spokesman, Eamonn Ó Cuív, pointing to the difficulty that many farmers on commonage may have in qualifying for the scheme.

The uplands conservation action outlined in the GLAS proposals requires that at least 80pc of farmers in a commonage form a grazing association and apply as a collective in order to qualify.

"This package is totally inequitable and seriously skewed towards the needs of the most commercial farmers at the expense of those who are more dependent on direct payments for a living," said Deputy Ó Cuív.

The Galway West TD said he would be launching counter proposals this week and setting out what he described as "a fairer mechanism" for distributing payments.

He said he would undertake a series of public meetings in venues right around the country to highlight how CAP funds could be distributed in a manner which would be of greater benefit to the wider farming community.

The ICSA president, Gabriel Gilmartin was also critical of the scheme, pointing out that it was open to very intensive farmers that were using up to 170kg of nitrogen per hectare.

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"It doesn't make sense to have this money going to farmers who have some of the highest greenhouse gas emissions per hectare. Instead, it should be targeted at farmers on more marginal land," said Mr Gilmartin.

However, Tipperary-based consultant, Tom Dawson, expected a good uptake on the scheme.

"On the basis of what we've seen so far, I think there will be good interest, even with the payment being lower than REPS and farmers probably having to do a bit more to qualify," said Mr Dawson.

While Department officials are hopeful that some of the CAP rural development measures announced last week will be open for applications before the end of 2014, farm advisors believe that it is more likely that GLAS will only open for applications in 2015.

"I'd say that the first payments from the scheme may not arrive in farmers' accounts until October 2015," said Carlow-based consultant, Pat Minnock.

Advisory charges are likely to increase for farmers intending to apply for GLAS. While agri-advisors and consultants were reluctant to state exactly how much they would be expecting farmers to pay them for handling their applications, it is likely that fees of €400-500 per farm will be the norm.

Part of the cost will be associated with the two-stage application process, where a farmer will be required to submit a nutrient management plan only after he has been approved for a series of priority actions aimed at improving the 'green' outputs from his farm. AEOS was costing farmers closer to €300 on average in consultancy fees.

Irish Independent