Saturday 8 November 2014

Highest ever number of hits on

We had 1,209 hits on our site today, this is our highest ever daily total. has now had over 87,000 hits. Thanks to all our readers.

Friday 7 November 2014

Unique Opportunity for the Dept. of Agriculture.

The Oireachtas Agriculture Committee heard from senior Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine officials earlier this week.  It was a disappointing affair as the Dept. of Agriculture do not appear to have moved their position at all.  Whether they appreciate it or not they are now in danger of presiding over a GLAS application system that will effectively restrict access by commonage farmers and allow large number of places to be filled by farmers without priority assets.  The reasons for this have been elaborated by many commentators over the past 6 months and I do not propose to go into great detail on them here. Suffice to say that the limited time frame for the production of management plans and the reluctance of the Dept. of Agriculture to play a leadership role in the process mean that very few commonages will get across the line in 2015.  Their place will be taken by large numbers of farmers without priority access who face fewer barriers to entry.
This completely undermines the objectives of the GLAS scheme and through inhibiting rather than promoting good commonage management places Ireland at a considerable risk of a financial correction on the entire CAP.  The IFA, the Agricultural Consultants Association and the Hill Farmers for Action Group have all made proposals on how matters should proceed.  They are all on the same hymn sheet, the only one out of step is the Dept. of Agriculture.
The Dept. of Agriculture have a unique opportunity here, they have all stakeholders agreeing to the need for reform and they have broad agreement from them all as to how this should happen. With minor changes to the GLAS proposals they can bring almost everyone with them.  No one would see reforms to GLAS as a climb down, they would applaud it as good management and common sense.
The Dept. of Agriculture  can make this work. Will they seize the chance, we will know soon enough.
P.S. The transcript of the Oireachtas Committee on Agricultures meeting with the Dept. of Agriculture can be found below.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Oireachtas Agriculture Committee meeting with the Dept of Agriculture.

The Oireachtas Agriculture Committee meeting with officials from the dept of agriculture today was a very disappointing affair.  In spite of all the proposals made by stakeholders, the only hint at movement was in relation to the timeline for completion of commonage management plans. Although even in respect of this no firm details of any change were given.

Deputies O Cuiv and Kyne did their best to extract answers from the officials on how they hope to solve the many challenges that will be faced in progressing the commonage issue.  The replies were far from satisfactory.  One official highlighted the dangers that would be faced by Ireland if we persisted with maintaining the statue quo, no one will argue with him on that, but his colleagues handling of the issues connected with Glas were very unsatisfactory. It was wearisome to listen to the same tired old lines about the present proposals being arrived at after extensive consultations being trotted out again and again.

As I said earlier the officials were at pains to point out the risk that Ireland faces of a financial correction if the levels of activity on commonages do not increase. Unfortunately, I fear that the Dept. of Agriculture proposals increases rather than reduces the risk of such a correction.  It was stressed that a credible plan would buy sufficient time to address the issue. If a credible plan  is what is needed then I think we are all in big trouble.  The window of opportunity that exists to address the commonage issue is about to be wasted and the consequences of this will be serious.

I am certain that the small number of interested and experienced planners will continue to work with farmers and will try and resolve issues on as many commonages as they can.  However any successes will be in spite of, rather than because of the Dept. of Agriculture.  The Depts. failure to adopt a leadership role in this process is placing the entire project in jeopardy and is a sad indictment of public administration in this country.

For this reason it is more important than ever that farmers and planners work together, if that means working within a poorly thought out scheme then we will have to do it.  Together we will have to develop the systems needed to secure the future of farming on commonages.  We cannot let a failure of this process be pinned on us.  We cannot let the last blow be a self inflicted one.  This is not a satisfactory outcome but it is the only realistic one left.  I suggest that farming leaders and advisors in the main commonage counties should meet and seek to develop their own systems for co-ordinating a commonage planning process at a regional level. This should have a particular focus on how the larger commonages and more difficult sites can be dealt with.

The first training course for farm advisors starts next week, I assume the final details will be made public then. Let's hope we missed something today.
The full transcript of todays hearing will be available in a few days time, when it is ready it will be posted on this site

Oireachtas Committee to discuss the Commonage Issue with the Dept of Agriculture today

Agriculture Committee to discuss Rural Development Programme 2014-2020

Meeting likely to focus on Commonages policy concerns
3 November 2014

Representatives from the Department of Agriculture will appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine tomorrow to consider the Rural Development Programme 2014- 2020 (RDP). The RDP, which was submitted by the Department of Agriculture to the European Commission earlier in the year, sets out to provide €4 billion to rural communities in the coming years.

The Agri-environment GLAS scheme will provide €1.6 billion, while other strands of the scheme cover rural enterprise and social inclusion.

While wider aspects of the Rural Development Programme are likely to be considered at tomorrow's meeting, the Committee are expected to focus on concerns around commonages. Commonage farmers have concerns that the new RDP requires them to join commonage management plans in order of avail funding under the scheme.

Committee Chairman Andrew Doyle TD says: “With relations between hill and commonage farmers and Department Officials somewhat strained, the Committee will be keen to assess how a solution might be found to the impasse at tomorrow's meeting. Committee Members are acutely aware of the current issues involved in the management of commonages. Over the course of seven hearings in 2013, we examined the policy options to safeguard and enhance commonage lands. Our findings argued against a one-size-fits-all solution, noting that each management scheme must be based on and address the unique characteristics of individual commonages.

“The Report we produced drew on current best practice of successful management of these lands. For instance, Committee Members were hugely impressed with the common-sense approach that the Burren Life Programme has taken since its establishment. We heard that the Programme has been a win-win situation for all stakeholders, due to the farmer-led approach and a simple scoring system which forms the basis of payments. This simple, practical and effective model is held in high regard Europe Union-wide, and it therefore makes absolute sense to explore how similar programmes might be rolled out nationally.”  

Separately, the Committee will scrutinise of EU Legislative Proposal COM (2014) 180, which relates to the production and labelling of organic products. Department Officials will also be in attendance to assist the Committee in their consideration of this proposal. =

The meeting takes place tomorrow Tuesday 4 November at 2 pm in Committee Room 3, LH 2000. Commencing with discussion on commonages, proceedings can be viewed online by visiting

Committee proceedings can also be viewed on the move, through the Houses of the Oireachtas Smartphone App, available for Apple and Android devices.