Farm bodies call for swift opening of agri scheme

ICMSA president John Comer
ICMSA president John Comer

Declan O'Brien and Aideen Sheehan

FARM organisations have called for the speedy opening up of the new agri-environment or GLAS scheme.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney last week announced details of the new Rural Development Plan (RDP) which will provide €4bn for farming over the next seven years, averaging €570m a year between now and 2020.

The biggest swathe of funding – some €1.45bn over seven years – will go to a new Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) which will provide up to €5,000 a year for the estimated 50,000 farmers expected to commit to the agri-environment package.

Top-up payments worth €2,000 a year will be available to farmers who take on challenging environmental actions.

The Government's budgetary constraints will restrict the numbers participating in GLAS next year to between 25,000 and 30,000, but this will increase in subsequent years to the full quota of eligible farmers, said Minister Coveney.

The IFA has insisted that a January 1 starting date must be available for farmers entering the programme. The association claimed that there were no reasons why the programme could not be up and running by that date.

The ICMSA called on Minister Coveney to open up the application process for the schemes this year.

ICMSA president John Comer said it was critical that the detail of the various schemes was known to farmers, many of whom were making "massive financial investments" in preparation for the post-quota era.

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However, Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív claimed the GLAS scheme payments were unlikely to be available in 2015 and could run into 2016.

Deputy Ó Cuív also accused Minister Coveney of effectively locking farmers who have any commonage on their land out of the new GLAS scheme.

"All other farmers in commonage will have to get agreement of at least 50pc of the commonage shareholders to be even considered for GLAS. Taking into account that some commonages have many hundreds of shareholders, some of whom would be elderly, it will be virtually impossible for the proactive farmers in these areas to get into the scheme," claimed Deputy Ó Cuív.

Meanwhile, other draft spending proposals under the RDP include:

n€295m for a DNA database of Irish suckler cattle to improve breeding standards;

n€195m for eligible farmers from the Areas of Natural Constraint Programme which replaces the current Disadvantaged Areas Scheme;

n€44m for organic farming.

The draft RDP proposals are being put out for public consultation before they are submitted to the EU for final approval.

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