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.