One of the country's top farm consultancies and Teagasc have become embroiled in a bitter battle over the pricing of plans for the GLAS scheme.
A claim by well-known farm consultant Philip Farrelly that the comprehensive service which they are offering to clients will save €1,000 in fees over the five year life of the GLAS scheme when compared to the Teagasc package has been challenged by the semi-state farm advisory body.
Teagasc has outsourced the preparation of GLAS plans to the Farm Relief Service (FRS) and retain €50-€100 of the €440 per farm fee charged for the plan to cover administration costs.
"We are charging our clients €440 for the farm plan. If the plan is accepted there is a charge of €465 for the Nutrient Management plan in year one, but no charge in subsequent years. Membership fees are a separate issue based on what service each farmer requires. It is impossible to have a saving of €1,000 on Teagasc GLAS charges," a Teagasc spokesman said.
Mr Farrelly - who chose not to provide a breakdown on his GLAS fee scale or itemise the 'savings' compared to Teagasc's prices - confirmed to the Farming Independent that he was standing over his claims and denied that he was being critical of Teagasc.
"I have been entirely transparent about my charges and will continue to be so. My claim that GLAS Farm Planners' [Mr Farrelly's GLAS consultancy] fees will be up to €1,000 less over the lifetime of the scheme is based on information published in the public domain concerning proposed Teagasc fees. If Teagasc have reduced their fee structure in response to the launch of GLAS Farm Planners this is to be welcomed by all," he said.
Mr Farrelly's firm is currently advertising for up to 50 graduates to provide a nationwide service of GLAS planners with at least two staff in every county.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman, Eamon Ó Cuiv, has warned that time pressure could result in the exclusion of thousands for farmers from GLAS.
Although it is envisaged that up to 30,000 farmers will join GLAS this year, Deputy Ó Cuiv said that the tight deadline and a shortage of planners could significantly curtail the number who actually apply.
Deputy Ó Cuiv pointed out that there were only 45 days (including Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays) to the April 30 closing date for GLAS applications and just 348 fully approved planners at the moment.
Even if 500 planners produced a plan every two days, and worked seven days a week, the total number of plans submitted by April 30 would be 11,250, Deputy Ó Cuiv said.
"With Area Aid applications, young farmer applications, national reserve applications and the many other things planners have to attend to it is clear that the 11,250 figure could even be on the high side," he added.
Deputy Ó Cuiv called for some flexibility on the GLAS closing date.
"The Minister should now announce that all eligible applications for GLAS this year will be approved and allowed to start once examined, thus ensuring that farmers would get a significant GLAS payment for this year," he said.