Brendan O Malley Chair of the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association has stated that the level of uncertainty that exists around GLAS is leading to a very low uptake with commonage farmers. While farmers are now allowed to apply as individuals, penalties can be applied at a collective level. These penalties he stated could go as high as 100% and can be applied for a baseline breach where the breach cannot be attributed to any one farmer. An example of this could be a fire. These penalties will also apply across all Schemes. What all of this means is that farmers will be responsible for the actions of other farmers or may have to inform on them. Either way it has the potential to put neighbour against neighbour and will divide communities. A second major issue concerns farmers with existing stable flocks. These farmers have managed their commonages and kept them in good condition down through the years. Mr O Malley said that “in order for these farmers to join GLAS then many will have to destock as they may be over the minimum stocking density at commonage level”. He went on to state that “INHFA personnel have being inundated with calls from farmers who would like to join GLAS but in order to do so will have to reduce their sheep number” By persisting with this approach the Department run the risk of making viable flocks unviable and potentially see the management of commonages regress.
A third barrier to entry for commonage farmers concerns the closing date.While the INHFA welcomes the decision of extending the individual application date to the 22nd of May there has being no such extension for completion of
the overall Commonage Management Plan (CMP). This still holds at the 3rd July.
Mr O Malley stated that “our fear is that planners will not have enough time to get the CMP’s completed and the extension of the individual closing date without extending the July 3rd date has made it much more difficult”.
INHFA are calling on Minister Coveney and his officials to look again at how they want the min/max figures applied especially for individual farmers. We would also hope that they will reconsider the collective element regarding penalties and look at extending the July 3rd closing dates for the CMP. Solutions to all of these issues can be found and Mr. O Malley concluded by stating that “our policy advisers are willing to discuss potential solutions with the minister and his officials”
If you need any further clarification on points in press release please contact either of the following people
Henry O’Donnell (Donegal) 062670742
Brendan Joyce (Galway) 0872226737
Colm O’Donnell (Sligo) 0863892279
John Moran (Mayo) 0868306586