Tuesday 4 November 2014

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 www.oireachtas.ie

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

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