A conference on commonage issues was held in team yesterday. The well attended meeting heard from representatives of the Dept of Agriculture and the NPWS. The importance of maintaining uplands in GAEC was emphasised by the Dept of Agriculture and the range of environmental services provided by agriculture in upland areas was highlighted.
Details of a proposed new uplands scheme were presented and while there are a lot of points yet to be worked out, the positives are that it appears that it will be objective based rather than prescription led. The proposals made are very much in line with those suggested by the Oireachtas committee on Agriculture. There does not appear to be any firm commitment from the Dept of Agriculture yet but the time for decision is getting very close. I would expect some clarity by the time the draft Rural Development Plan is published.
The Dept of Agriculture will be keen to make any scheme as simple to administer as possible. While this is important, administrative convenience must not dictate a one size fits all solution.
It is encouraging that the Dept. of Agriculture have engaged with farmers at this stage. It is to be hoped that they continue to develop a workable scheme in an open manner and with input from farmers and other stakeholders.