The additional measures introduced in Nov 2008 in SAC and Commonage Areas in the Maumturks expire this month. The measures were introduced as following detailed monitoring which established that the expected recovery of vegetation was not taking place. Farmers in these areas were obligated to join either the REPS scheme or the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme. Farmers who were in REPS received a top up from the NPWS to compensate for the additional measures required.
The big issue now for many of these farmers is how this will their eligibility for the Dis-advantaged Area Scheme in 2014 and beyond. Farmers in the 12 Bens/ Maumturks were shielded from the increase in the minimum stocking density requirements for the DAS scheme by their obligations to NPWS. However with these restrictions lifted, the farmers will have to meet the normal DAS qualifying stocking density in 2014, this may in some cases require a considerable increase in stock numbers and or a change in farming system. Making this change in one year may be very difficult for some of them. As the only realistic way of increasing flock sizes in upland areas is by ensuring that the number of ewe lambs retained is greater than the number of cull ewes sold, increasing flock size is limited by the availability of ewe lambs.
If the farmer did not make provision for this this year then he may have real difficulties in 2014. However even if a farmer did retain extra ewe lambs, there is a limit to the possible rate of increase in flock size. In most cases increasing the flock by more than 15-20% in one year is not realistic.
Whether this will be enough to satisfy the new requirements for all of the affected farmers is extremely unlikely. It seems inevitable that unless some transition period is provided for by the Dept. of Agriculture that some farmers are at risk of losing their DAS payment in 2014.