Irish Natura And Hill Farmers Association Policies - GLAS
(Green Low carbon Agri-Environmental Scheme)

Green Low carbon Agri-Environmental Scheme

This Scheme is the successor to REPS and AEOS and like REPS is a whole farm scheme which will involve hiring a planner to do up a nutrient management plan. Sadly this is where the similarities between the two schemes end. The maximum pay-out on GLAS is €5000 per year (REPS was €12000) but for a small number of farmers there is the option of GLAS+ which will pay a further €2000. The unfortunate thing is that if the will was there we could have had a scheme that would have paid close to what REPS did. The reason for this being the money was allocated to the Rural Development Program that could have funded a more expansive agri-environmental scheme. This was not to be and for some reason the delivery of the Food Harvest 2020 targets became a Rural Development priority. All of this helps explain the decision to use some of the Pillar 2 Rural Development funding for schemes that would have being a better fit in Pillar 1. To compound this access to this scheme is not guaranteed and many farmers on marginal land that previously would have being in REPS may not get access. Acceptance of this for these farmers will be more difficult when they see highly intensive farmers on top quality land getting access to GLAS.

The INHFA believe that any farmer on land that has a natural constraint should get access to GLAS

Of course getting access to the scheme is also proving to be a problem for commonage farmers despite having priority access. Indeed as it stands commonage farmers are one of the least likely sectors to join because of the restrictions and the uncertainty in relation to what will be expected of them.

Restrictions to Commonage Farmers Joining GLAS

Initially farmers on commonages could only access the scheme if 50% of farmers agreed to join in a term called a collective agreement. After many public meetings and protests (which was organised by the farmers that set up the INHFA) this was changed and farmers were allowed apply as individuals. Unfortunately since this, a number of other issues have come to light which is forcing commonage farmers to think again about joining the scheme.

• The min/max figures (these are the optimum livestock numbers set for each farmer and overall commonage by the Department) which all farmers that apply to join have to abide by are too narrow and very restrictive. If implemented this will see the destocking of stable flocks making these farmers unviable and possibly see these commonages regress.

• There is now a collective responsibility where a breach of the terms and conditions of the scheme can’t be attributed to one farmer. An example here could be a fire. In this case up to 100% penalty can be applied to all farmers in the scheme and it can also apply to their basic payment scheme. Ironically for any farmer not in GLAS then their basic payment would be safe unless they were found to be in breach of the terms and conditions of the basic payment scheme.

• When planners do up the Commonage Management Plan they are not allowed to take into account the stock numbers of farmers that do not want to join GLAS. Yet in preparing the plan, the min/max figures for the overall commonage has to be made up by the farmers that apply to join GLAS. What this risks doing is to bring about the over-grazing of commonages especially when you consider the previous point regarding farmers with stable flocks having to de-stock. We would see these farmers as the ones least likely to join GLAS which will force farmers with smaller numbers to take up the slack on the min/max figures.

• The last point concerns who pays and more to the point who is responsible for the Commonage Management Plan(CMP). At present commonage farmers are going to get an increased payment!! (€120/ha) which is to help pay for the extra cost of having to pay two planners ie. their own planner and the planner that will have to do up the overall CMP. What all of this means is that responsibility for the condition and management of the commonage has now moved from the Department of Agriculture and the NPWS to the farmer and planner. This is very worrying because, despite offers being made to the department that some of the €120/ha payment could be given back to them so they can commission the plans and take responsibility for them they have always refused. Our concern is simple, they have refused this offer because they don’t want to take any responsibility for the CMP’s as they may know something that we have not yet being told.

What needs to happen

• Firstly the Department of Agriculture or the NPWS need to take responsibility for the CMP. It can still be done through the planners but the money should be paid by the state and clawed back from the commonage farmers that join GLAS.

• The min/max figures and the method of implementation have to be reviewed for each commonage and the individual farmers. This should see flexibility being given to farmers for their individual figures where they can get agreement provided the overall figures for the commonage works out.

• The stock for farmers that don’t join GLAS has to be taken into account when deciding on the min/max figures. These figures are available through the CMMS and the Sheep Census and should be made available to the planner that is doing the CMP.

• Finally farmers that join can only be held responsible for their own actions or lack of actions – the collective responsibility has to go.

"Seeking Fairness Not Favouritism"


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