Hill farmers to go it alone in bid to get GLAS changes
The clearest indication yet that a major split is looming in the IFA came during a packed Hill Farmers for Action meeting in Letterkenny last Friday night when a spokesman for the group said they are prepared to "go it alone" if IFA fails to back their campaign.
The splinter group is opposed to proposals that hill and commonage farmers form collective agreements to gain access to new environmental payments in schemes such as GLAS.
In one of the largest farm meetings ever held in the county, Midlands and Northwest MEP Marian Harkin told the crowd of 800 that EU farm officials in Brussels were not aware of any collective deal on commonages in Ireland.
"I met them on Friday and they were under the impression that it was not a requirement of the CAP deal," she told the meeting at the Clanree Hotel.
Under the proposals sent to Brussels, commonage farmers will only qualify for GLAS if they sign up to a management plan that covers a minimum of 50pc of the area. It was envisaged that local agricultural advisors would co-ordinate this process.
However, advisors in the region have declared the proposals as unworkable.
"It won't be worth our while, unless the Department of Agriculture cough up. But I don't think it has been thought through by the Department at all," said west Mayo agricultural advisor, John McDonagh.
"This is not a desk-top exercise. It could take years to draw up all these plans, but the Department expect all this to be done before we get stuck into the next Single Farm Payment application," he said.