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ICMSA: New agri-environment scheme shows ‘clear bias’ against commercial family farms

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ICMSA President Pat McCormack. Photo: Don Moloney

ICMSA President Pat McCormack. Photo: Don Moloney

ICMSA President Pat McCormack. Photo: Don Moloney

The proposed agri-environment scheme that will replace GLAS in 2023 will be more challenging for farmers to gain access to and have more onerous requirements for participants.

Further detail of the new scheme was presented to farm organisations and industry stakeholders at a meeting last week. It is understood access to the scheme will be determined through a ranking and selection process.

Priority access will be provided to organic farmers, farmers with priority assets (such as Natura, Commonage) and farmers who agreed to undertake specific priority actions(such as Minimum Tillage, Catch crops and tree planting).

Under the latest round of CAP reform, policymakers were keen to attract more intensive farmers to take part in agri-environment schemes after many shunned both REPS and GLAS.

However, speaking to the Farming Independent, ICMSA President Pat McCormack was scathing on what he said was “the false premise” of the proposed scheme under CAP and what he said was a continuation of the present “clear bias” against commercial family farms.

“We’re really disappointed that the Department still seems fixated on this nonsense where farmers are either environmental or commercial,” he said.

“ICMSA has been pointing out for at least five years that the whole point has to be making commercial farmers more environmentally sustainable and you do that by bringing them into realistic schemes, terms and payments.

“But that’s not what we get; what we get are essentially frivolous ideas that will not work for commercial family farms and what looks like a deliberate withdrawal of support that particularly family dairy farms need and deserve if they are to become more environmentally efficient.”

It is understood the new scheme will feature a dedicated and attractive action for farmers for land re-wetting. Similarly, significant tree-planting measures will be included, including agro-forestry and riparian planting. Mandatory planting of broadleaf trees on some farms may be also be included.

Pat McCormack said Ireland’s CAP plan must continue the transition of our most economically valuable farming sectors to a more sustainable basis.

“That must mean — or at least it should mean — that we actively include and incorporate our commercial family farms into that transition policy. What we can’t do is set them up as obstacle and that’s exactly the impression given by current Government policy,” he said.

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