Thousands face fresh delays on GLAS payments

Only 50pc of Commonage plans uploaded on Department system

IFA President Joe Healy leads farmers on a protest at the Department of Agriculture on Kildare Street. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Just 50pc of the Commonage Management Plans (CMPs) required for GLAS have been uploaded to the Department of Agriculture's online system.

The Department confirmed to the Farming Independent this week that 1,900 plans had been created on its online system.

This figure represents half of 3,800 commonages which are included in the GLAS scheme.

Given that around 9,000 GLAS applicants work these commonages, it is estimated that close to 4,500 farmers could have payments held up because of delays in submitting CMPs.

In a statement this week the Department insisted that its aim was to "pay as many farmers as possible their 2017 advance payment".

However, the Department statement added that each application "must pass the necessary checks, including the commonage check where applicable, before it can be approved for payment".

Planners have complained of continuing problems with the GLAS online systems. They claim some commonages are not listed on the system, others have land owners' names missing, while some commonages could not be opened.

A month ago the Department admitted in a circular issued to planners that commonages were missing from the GLAS system.

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"A very small number of commonages remain to be linked to the online system and are not yet available. This work will be completed shortly," the Department stated.

Despite this admission, the circular insisted that a CMP had to be submitted for each commonage before 2017 payments could be issued to GLAS participants.

The Department again admitted last week that there were continuing issues "with a small number of cases", but insisted that "these are being resolved on an ongoing basis".

"Information sessions for GLAS advisors on the GLAS commonage online system were held and a video demonstrating the system is available on the Department's website," the Department insisted.

However, planners in the west claimed that accessing and uploading applications onto the GLAS system was still problematic.

Both the INHFA and the IFA have called on the Department to pay the 85pc advance in GLAS payments irrespective of whether applicants' CMPs have been lodged or not.

"Where problems present themselves on the Department's IT system, a mechanism needs to be found that will ensure these farmers still get their payment," the INHFA maintained.

The IFA's hill chairman, Pat Dunne, called on Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, to ensure that all 9,000 GLAS applicants with commonage lands received their 85pc advance payment in the coming weeks.

Mr Dunne pointed out that GLAS was worth up to €60m in hill areas and that these funds could not be delayed because of the Department's IT failings.

Meanwhile, the Department pointed out that some GLAS applicants had not yet submitted a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) which is the main issue holding up the payment of outstanding 2016 claims.

It will also hold up 2017 advance payments. As of November 17 there were 3,800 NMPs outstanding.

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