Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 21 November 2017

GLAS gets the green light from Brussels

Eamon O Cuiv accused Minister Coveney of hiding behind his desk
Eamon O Cuiv accused Minister Coveney of hiding behind his desk
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

GLAS application submissions can begin this week following the formal approval of the Rural Development Programme by the EU over the weekend.

The 'letter of comfort' from Commission officials allows a roll-out of all the €4bn programme over the next seven years, with €2.2bn coming from EU coffers.

However, advisors remain divided as to whether the GLAS scheme is fit to deliver €250m annually into farmers' pockets.

Some advisors claim that they will not be able to cope with more than half of the farmers that will be looking for Commonage Management Plans to be completed by July 3.

"There's just no way that I'll be able to find the time to sit down with farmers and hammer out all the commonage plans required by the cut-off date," said Donegal advisor, Brian Dolan.

"I'd say that more than 50pc are going to miss out, mainly the guys that I've never dealt with before, because they are the most time consuming."

Mr Dolan believes that the peripheral location of many commonage farmers will make them unattractive to planners outside the regions that have extra resources.

A Teagasc spokesman admitted that Teagasc would not be offering a blanket service to farmers unable to access private advisors.

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"We're not chasing market share, so we'll deal with farmers on a case-by-case basis. If a farmer needs help in a commonage, it is available from Farm Relief Services (FRS). But they need to be Teagasc clients, and it needs to make [commercial] sense," he said.

The minimum charge for a farmer with less than 50 livestock units to become a Teagasc client is €145 per year.

The scheme is also attracting public criticism, with Fianna Fail's agriculture spokesman, Eamonn O Cúiv accusing Minister Coveney of hiding behind his ministerial desk on the realities facing the roll-out of GLAS. He believes that total applications for the scheme will end up closer to 16,000 than the 30,000 target set by the minister.

"It seems the minister is in deep denial if he thinks that the targeted 30,000 applications will be completed by May 22," said Deputy O Cúiv.

"To add to the raft of barriers that farmers are already facing in accessing GLAS, the minister has now confirmed land which has any heather present will be disqualified from the low-input permanent pasture grade within the scheme. This is not fair and is very disproportionate in its coverage."

Commonage

Planners are also suggesting that many farmers will be happy to defer applications to GLAS until 2016 in order to create more land parcels, which will allow them to maximise their payments under the new environmental scheme.

For this reason, Tipperary advisor Tom Dawson predicts the number of third tier applicants will significantly out-number the total applying in the top two priority tiers, who are mainly those on commonage and marginal land.

"But I certainly can't see the scheme being over-subscribed, even though a lot of farmers are surprised at the amount that they can earn from it when they go through it," he said.

Independent TD for Roscommon, Michael Fitzmaurice criticised the scheme for its insistence that SAC and NHA applicants cannot sow wild bird cover without prior clearance from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

"What are we coming to in Ireland when farmers have to apply for permission to carry out farming activity on their own land?" he said.

"The Minister for Agriculture ,Simon Coveney, said that he was giving priority to people with designated land but now the reality is that those farmers are now on the bottom rung of the ladder."

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