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IFA demands progress on GLAS delays

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Minister Simon Coveney

Minister Simon Coveney

SPORTSFILE

Minister Simon Coveney

The IFA has called for the GLAS scheme to be opened without delay by the Department of Agriculture and contracts should be available to farmers at the earliest possible date in 2015.

The association's Hill Farming Committee chairman Pat Dunne also called for the introduction of a new-knowledge transfer measure for hill areas to improve returns for sheep farmers. He said the measure should include a payment of €1,500/farmer.

The IFA also wants Teagasc to remain involved in the delivery of the environmental programme. The State's farm advisory service is in the process of seeking a strategic partner to work with its clients in drawing up GLAS plans.

However, the lack of progress on the GLAS scheme has been criticised by the IFA and Mr Dunne said there were a number of key priorities which the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, must address as a matter of urgency.

These include:

* The GLAS scheme opens without delay so contracts can begin at the earliest possible date in 2015 with payments being made later in the year;

* A strong Government commitment is made to pay significant GLAS payments in 2015;

* The instructions to planners at the training courses allows for the new commonage rules to be implemented in a flexible way;

* The minister must ensure Teagasc remains involved in commonage plans as many farmers already have contracts with them;

* The commonage management plan must be simple and should be administrated and paid for by the Department of Agriculture with planners contracted to carry them out;

* On the lead-in time to achieve the stocking rates required, to qualify for Single Farm Payment, farmers - in some cases - must be given until the end of 2016, particularly where there are large commonages;

* In relation to the minimum stocking level for GLAS, there must be a flexible arrangement based on what the planners determine as a reasonable timescale. This should also involve individual stocking arrangements between farmers;

* In relation to the GLAS management agreement, maximum flexibility must be given to farmers who can't achieve the 50pc of active shareholders;

* The Commonage Implementation Committee must deal with cases which have difficulty reaching the 50pc of active shareholders within a two-week period so that there is no hold-up in the application for GLAS;

* Farmers in commonage areas must be entitled to be eligible for GLAS+ in all areas not just those where there is a priority environmental asset;

* The GLAS targeted output scheme must be implemented in commonage areas;

* A special hill-sheep knowledge transfer measure including a payment of €1,500/farmer should apply in hill areas to help to get a better economic return for sheep farmers.

In addition, Mr Dunne has called on Minister Heather Humphreys to immediately come forward with proposals to change the dates allowing the burning of commonages to be moved from the end of February to mid April.

"Controlled burning is an intricate part of commonage management and the promised change of date must be forthcoming from Minister Humphreys," Mr Dunne said.

The introduction of the new GLAS scheme has been dogged by opposition to the Department of Agriculture proposals.

Hill farmers are strongly opposed to the requirement that at least 50pc of active shareholders join collective management agreements for commonages.

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