In response to a question from Sean Kyne TD the Minister for Agriculture descried the progress to date on negotiations between the farm organisations, his Department and the NPWS. This is a welcome development and it is to be hoped that an agreement can be reached in time to allow commonage farmers to enter GLAS in the Autumn. The full test of the exchange between Sean Kyne TD and the Minister is shown below.
Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the negotiations that have taken place between his Department and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht regarding the implementation of the commonage review; if liaison committees are proposed for the shareholders of each commonage in conjunction with his Department, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and farm organisations; the timescale for the implementation; if he acknowledges that every commonage requires a different plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13946/14]
Deputy Seán Kyne: Will the Minister outline the negotiations that have taken place between his Department and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on the implementation of the commonage review? Have liaison committees been set up for discussions between the shareholders in each commonage in conjunction with his Department, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and farm organisations?
Deputy Simon Coveney: This is an ongoing process about which I spoken to the Deputy on several occasions. This is a sensitive issue as there are thousands of commonages across the country. We have a new commonage framework programme that needs to be implemented in partnership with the farmers in question and the National Parks and Wildlife Service which has a role to ensure commonages are farmed appropriately. If they are overgrazed, stocking rates should be reduced, while if they are undergrazed, which is the case in respect of much commonage land, stocking rates need to be increased. The complication arises if multiple farmers are farming the same commonage as one then has to get agreement from a majority of them. If necessary, we will go commonage by commonage and sit down at local meetings to bring people on board with the scheme. Farmers will not receive an instruction on the programme from me by letter and it will not be introduced by enforcement. We have had 18 months of discussions to see how best we can do this with farming organisations and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to introduce the programme in as sensible and practical as a way to get the right result both for farmers and the environment. The Deputy will see a partnership between farming organisations and my Department to get it right.
Deputy Seán Kyne: When will the liaison with farmers start? There is concern among the farmers in question in advance of next year about the GLAS, green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, and stocking rates. I appreciate the Minister's letter last week to allow farmers to qualify for the disadvantaged areas scheme within certain environmentally restricted schemes in Connemara and County Mayo. There are concerns, however, in commonage areas as to when the discussions will take place and when a solution will be finally implemented in order that the farmers in question will know where they are going.
Deputy Simon Coveney: The important point is that the European Commission sees progress in this area. There has been progress as the liaison process is under way, but there will be difficult commonage areas that will require local public meetings to be held. We are planning that structure with the farming organisations in order that it can be rolled out over time. Implementation of the new commonage framework proposals will not happen overnight, as the Commission will understand. Most of the commonages will sort themselves out, but there will be potential problem areas in the Deputy's county which will have to be dealt with sensitively