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Thursday 14 December 2017

Thousands of farmers could miss out on GLAS

IFA calls for deadline extension as scheme is over-subscribed by at least 5,000

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed Picture: Tom Burke
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed Picture: Tom Burke
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed is under pressure to increase the funding available for GLAS following unprecedented demand for the scheme ahead of the deadline for applications this Thursday.

The environmental initiative already has 38,000 participants, but with over 16,500 applications in for the last tranche of the scheme, total demand is set to exceed the original target of 50,000 farmers by at least 5,000.

This estimate is before the traditional last-minute rush of applications is accounted for over the coming three days.

A maximum annual amount of €250m has been budgeted for the scheme over seven years.

The interest in the scheme, coupled with the high proportion of tier one and two applications, looks set to eliminate all applicants that opted for the minimum measures required in tier three.

According to figures from the Department of Agriculture, some 95pc of the 14,500 online applications that had been received by last Thursday qualified for either the tier one or tier two options.

Farm organisations said that extra funding should be allocated to ensure all applicants are allowed into the scheme. Both the IFA and ICMSA came out strongly yesterday to demand more flexibility from the agriculture minister.

The IFA's rural development chairman Joe Brady said that the total allocation of €1.45bn over the lifetime of the scheme had been significantly undershot so far, with around €160m set to be spent on the scheme in 2016. Mr Brady has also suggested the numbers allowed into the scheme be increased to a minimum of 55,000.

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Payments for the 38,000 farmers already in GLAS are due to start next Monday. The average annual payment will be €4,400, but only 85pc of this will be paid initially.

The Department is warning farmers not to leave their applications to the last minute to avoid the possibility of internet problems as large numbers attempt to upload their details.

Upgrade

The Department has outlined ways for farmers to upgrade their applications to tier two or tier one status. One of the key actions being promoted by officials is the Low-Emission Slurry Spreading action (LESS) on low-stocked livestock farms or on arable farms less than 30ha in size.

"This action requires a minimum of 50 cubic metres of slurry spread annually using low-emission technology. The slurry can be imported, but it must be spread using low-emissions technology," it said in a statement.

Cover crops, wild bird cover, and minimum tillage, or 'min-till' as it is known, are other options open to farmers that do not have environmentally sensitive areas that are aiming to qualify for the scheme under tier two measures.

However, the scheme's rules state that even those who are eligible under tier two are not guaranteed access to the scheme, and that a "scoring matrix will apply if necessary".

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