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GLAS payments could be limited to €3,000 per farmer


ICMSA president John Comer

ICMSA president John Comer

ICMSA president John Comer

Applications for the €1.4bn Green Low Carbon Agri-environment Scheme (GLAS) have started this week, but the small print in the scheme is likely to limit average payments to just €3,000 per farmer, according to agricultural advisers.

"I've just discovered this today that a farmer can't split a parcel in order to carry out different measures on separate field areas," said Galway adviser, Vincent Costello.

He estimates that these restrictions could cost his clients up to €2,000 each, and weaken the appeal of the scheme.

"It's ridiculous that a parcel split last year is no problem, but if you try to do it for the first time this year, you tie yourself up in more restrictions," he said.

Up to 50,000 farmers are expected to apply to the new environmental scheme designed to replace REPS and AEOS, but a maximum of 30,000 are likely to access the scheme this year.

In order to qualify for a part payment in 2015, farmers must get their applications in for the scheme by May 15.

With no more than 500 agri-advisors trained up to administer the scheme, and 67 working days between now and the May deadline, advisors will need to target processing at least one applicant every day in order to meet the timeline involved.

The Government's National Development Plan, which is part-funded by the EU, is still waiting on official endorsement from Brussels.

However, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, claimed that the long and complex negotiations with the European Commission on GLAS were complete.

The five year scheme will pay eligible farmers up to €5,000 annually, with an additional package of €2,000 available to those with special environmental features on their farms.

Minister Coveney claimed that the new environmental scheme had a highly targeted approach by pinpointing the key priority environmental assets requiring protection.

GLAS+, encompassing the higher annual payment of €7,000, will now by available to all farms identified as habitats of endangered birds, including the hen harrier.

The requirement for 50pc of commonage farmers to sign up to a framework plan has also been dropped, with the 50pc "reconfigured as a target rather than an eligibility" issue, according to a statement from the Department of Agriculture.

Commonage advisers will also be given extra time to complete the necessary plans. The minister added that the submission of individual applications to join GLAS by commonage shareholders would not be delayed while the framework plans were being prepared.

While this will give advisers more time to prepare plans, no payment will be made to any commonage farmer before the framework plans are submitted.

The IFA said that all farmers applying to GLAS in 2015 must be accepted into the scheme, and that the Minister must ensure that a significant payment is made to farmers this year.

ICMSA president, John Comer, said that there was genuine concern that the scheme would not be relevant to farmers who were farming intensively.

"While intensive farmers can come under Tier 1, the options for intensive farmers to achieve the maximum €5,000 payments are quite limited and may be impractical for some farmers on smaller farms," he said.

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