Farmers alerted over fall in commonage stocking rates
Some 14,000 farmers are to receive letters from the Department of Agriculture over the next week outlining new stocking rate plans for the 1.1m acres of commonage ground.
It is part of a review of the commonage framework plans being undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to ensure sustainable stocking levels are implemented.
The Department wants farmers to sign up to collective agreements on the minimum and maximum number of sheep to be stocked on commonages to comply with the EU's Good Agricultural Environmental Conditions (GAEC).
Stocking rates will then need to fall between these new maximum and minimum rates in order for farmers to receive the single farm and disadvantaged area payments. Lowland areas will not be taken into account in the calculations.
It is not yet clear whether a farmer who satisfies the rates on his own farm, but whose commonage fails to meet the required stocking levels, will still qualify for farm payments after 2014.
The IFA are seeking a derogation in the case of a farmer who meets the requirements, but where commonage fails to comply to the proposed rules due to dormant commonage shareholders.
Hill committee chairman, Tom Fadian, also highlighted the importance of an agri-environmental scheme to replace the loss of REPS and cuts to the Disadvantaged Area scheme.