The Minister for Agriculture gave an indication of how he sees the commonage management issue developing. In response to a question from Sean Kyne TD, Minister Coveney announced that he sees the need for change, but acknowledges that it cannot be rushed through. He hopes that over the next 12-18 months changes on individual commonages can be progressed. He is also proposing that where necessary a mediator could be put in place to help facilitate agreement. Earlier the Minister announced that a final draft of the GLAS document would be published next week. It will be interesting to see how the commonage issue is addressed within the context of GLAS. It would be a backward step if farmers are discouraged from that scheme by virtue of the delays in addressing the commonage management question. I hope that will not be the case but we will know soon enough.
The full text of Sean Kyne's question and the Ministers response is given below.
Seán Kyne (Galway West, Fine Gael)
I thank the Minister and acknowledge the negotiations he has had with the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, over a period to have this matter rectified. He indicated yesterday that he would instruct his Department to make the interim payment. Minimum and maximum figures were produced for commonages previously. When will farmers be consulted on the future of the commonage framework grants system?
Simon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
This is a complex issue but one with which we have to deal. The discussion process is under way. We have been talking to farm organisations about the best way to do this. I have made it clear within the Department that we are not simply going to send letters to everybody in commonage areas instructing them that there is a change in the stocking rate on their commonage. As the two Deputies who have asked these questions know, within commonages there is a need for co-operation. Sometimes, however, this co-operation is difficult to obtain because of the personalities involved. Where possible, we will have to make changes in commonages where it is straightforward to do so. However, there will be some commonages where the challenges will take a little more time to overcome. If necessary, we will put a mediator in place to obtain full co-operation with the changes made. If the stocking rate changes, it impacts on everybody farming on a commonage and they have to act collectively. To answer the Deputy's question directly, it will take as long as it takes, but we are not going to rush and force farmers into a situation that is unacceptable to them. I expect the process to be rolled out in the next 12 to 18 months.