Thousands of farmers hit by new GLAS hitch

TD Denis Naughten
TD Denis Naughten
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Thousands of farmers have been told that they must wait until the autumn to apply for the GLAS.

Teagasc sent out letters this week to approximately 2,000 farmers informing them that their applications would not be processed in time for the May 22 deadline.

While affected farmers will have the option of contracting a private planner for the work, many of the biggest private planners have stopped taking new applicants in the last week.

"It would be reckless for us to take on any more clients at this stage," said Galway advisor, Fergal Monaghan.

The Teagasc letter states that it will take a number of weeks beyond the May 22 deadline to set up and process the last 20pc of applicants on the Department of Agriculture's system.

The state's agricultural research agency contracted Farm Relief Services (FRS) last year to process applications for the latest CAP environmental scheme.

"We regret to inform you of the possibility that despite our best efforts we may not be able to process your application before May 22 for Tranche 1," the letter states.

"Progress in the completion of GLAS plans has been very slow up to this point due to issues outside of Teagasc and FRS control.

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"We will give your application priority for Tranche 2 when it opens in autumn if you chose to leave your application with us," it concludes.

However, advisors like Fergal Monaghan believe that there will be a major shortage of planners willing to take on with the work involved, especially on commonages.

"Advisers have applied to carry out the framework plans on less than 5pc of commonages," he claimed.

"The problem for farmers is that they must have all their commonages covered by framework plans in order to get paid on any one of them."

Last week the Department announced that it was re-opening the GLAS scheme for applications in the autumn.

It was the first official acknowledgement that the scheme was not going to meet its target of 30,000 applicants in its first tranche.

Independent TD Denis Naughten claimed that if the Department had been more flexible in relation to the educational qualifications required of planners, that this situation could have been avoided.

Online systems

A statement from the Department 'strongly disagreed' with the Farming Independent's prediction last week that GLAS would receive little more than half of its original target.

It said that the number of applicants with completed actions had risen by nearly 6,000 in little over a week to 15,289 as of last Friday.

It also claimed that the online systems were performing well since their launch, with 63,000 farm scheme applications processed so far this year.

"There is no indication that this is impacting on the agent's/farmer's ability to submit applications in good time," it said.

"As is the case with all new systems, and particularly those operating in a live environment, a period of bedding-in is required.

"Feedback from our customers hase been very positive in this regard. Both GLAS and BPS are highly productive IT systems that provide the farmer/agent with functionality that is very advanced compared to other EU countries."

Meanwhile, Department officials confirmed to agri-advisors at an information meeting on Friday that booklets outlining eligibility rules for land would be sent out to farmers at the end of next week.

Planners were told that marginal land needed to show proof grazing activity in order to qualify. In addition, the Department will use infrared satellite images to distinguish between crop types, and even plant species, in their efforts to accurately establish eligible areas.

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