Monday 26 May 2014

Recent Commonage Developments.

The Minister for Agriculture has announced further details of the RDP that will be submitted to Brussels at the end of June. Shortly after this the Dept. of Agriculture published the SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment) of the RDP and an Appropriate Assessment of the RDP. The SEA is an overarching analysis of the environmental impacts positive and negative of the proposed measures. It also examines the steps that could be taken to mitigate the more adverse impacts. The AA is an examination of how the RDP impacts on NATURA sites, i.e. SAC and SPA lands. Inevitably there is a considerable overlap between the two documents. Both documents, along with the Ministers statement give us some further indication of the developing thinking on the commonage issue.

The most significant development is the introduction of a lower qualified majority for a commonage agreement for entry to GLAS at tier 2 priority. This is a welcome development and will facilitate progress on many commonages, the reduced priority attached to this lower qualified majority means that entry into GLAS may not happen till 2016. The second development of significance is the publication of the Dept. of Agriculture's target for GLAS participation among commonage farmers. They hope to have 150,000 Ha of commonage land in GLAS or GLAS+ contracts. This is about 50% of the commonage area declared on the 2013 SPS returns. This is ambitious and if it is to be realised considerable support for the process will be needed.

The lowering of the threshold for a qualified majority of shareholders will help, as will the Ministers statement in the Dail that mediators will be provided where required to facilitate agreements and that we can expect a roll out of this process over the next 12- 18 months. No information has been provided to date on how this would be done.

While we await developments on this issue it may be helpful to look at the situation in Wales where the Government there faced similar issues (albeit on a smaller scale). They opted to use LEADER and technical assistance funds to employ 18 Commonage Development Officers to facilitate agreements among commonage farmers. Is it possible that a similar approach could be used here?,d.ZGU

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