Thursday 31 December 2015

How did the commonage issue fare in 2015?

The last year has been a tumultuous one in the quest for a long term solution to the commonage issue.  Undeniably we are in a better place at the end of the year then we found ourselves at the beginning.  It might help all concerned to look back at the progress that has been made in 2015, not for the purpose of nostalgia but as evidence that progress is possible and that with goodwill on all sides, further progress in 2016 is a certainty.

  In January the situation appeared bleak, the Dept. of Agriculture and the Hill Farmers had different interpretations of what had been agreed between the Commonage Implementation Committee and a hill farmer’s delegation at their first meeting in Athenry. It was being suggested in some official quarters that the CIC was not authorised to make an agreement and that nothing discussed at that meeting could be considered as binding on the Dept. of Agriculture in any way.
This was a dangerous juncture, Ireland’s RDP was not yet agreed with Brussels and faith in the potential for direct talks between Hill Farmers and the Dept. of Agriculture to deliver a solution was at a low ebb.   Some of the key developments over the year that followed include;
  1. The publication by DAFM of a Guide to Land Eligibility.
  2. The initial round of BPS applications.
  3. First round of GLAS.
  4. The publication of the methodology for the production of Commonage Management Plans.
  5. The appointment of the first Commonage Advisors.
  6. Second round of GLAS applications.
Inevitably the list above looks like a series of actions by the Dept of Agriculture alone. I can assure you that this was not the case. Directly and indirectly other parties, in particular the INHFA (Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association) and a small number of agricultural advisors had an important role in influencing the evolution in commonage policy.  That the Dept of Agriculture were open to new ideas and willing to engage, although not necessarily agree with other perspectives and viewpoints was refreshing and bodes well for the future.
It is not appropriate at this stage to mention any names or to go into details of the discussions that took place. However, it may be worth examining some of the key constraints that the different stakeholders had to operate under. These are still relevant. The difficulty as always in these circumstances is that everyone looks to their own problems and seeks a solution to address these. Nothing wrong with that but we must all remember that the other parties involved have a different set of issues and their vision of the future is one which resolves their issues. The danger is that all too often people do not appreciate that their actions or their negotiating stance, while perfectly logical to them may be interpreted very differently by other stakeholders operating under a different set of constraints. Let’s look at some of the constraints that affect the different stakeholders.

The Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
First and foremost the Dept faced and continue to face a mammoth task in the roll out of the current RDP. This task is complex and multi faceted.  The aspects of it relating to commonage are lets be honest a minor component of the overall program. Commonage issues have to compete for resources, not just financial but also and perhaps even more critically for the attention of key management personnel and for the allocation of a limited IT resource. We must appreciate that the Dept. also has to engage with equally pressing issues in respect of the Basic Payment Scheme, Greening, Knowledge transfer, Young Farmers, TAMS etc. Other lobby groups have a keen interest in many of these issues and are equally forthright in their demands for progress and for fair and workable solutions. The officials dealing with all of these issues are in a no win situation. They cannot be expected to be experts on a technical level on everything that crosses their desk but they and the Dept end up being accused "of not understanding the reality on the ground". What other stakeholders have to appreciate is how could they understand everybody else's assessment of "reality on the ground".
The rest of us must remember that Dept officials are not only dealing with farmers and various lobby groups, but that they work in an environment where on many issues political consent is needed. This in itself takes time and cannot be taken for granted, senior officials are not plenipotentiaries, and they cannot make commitments that bind the Dept to a particular course of action. They must have regard to the decision making processes within the Dept and the Government. To further complicate things, the Dept of Agriculture have to report to the EU Commission, their room for manoeuvre on some topics is thus constrained by agreements already made with the Commission.  
I am sure some of the people within the Dept. of Agriculture, navigating this maze of competing demands and the constant battle to keep the show on the road must find the whole system extremely frustrating and indeed stressful. They must look at some of the demands made by third parties and say to themselves, do these people not realise that things could be a lot worse? Do they not understand that it is an achievement in itself that their topic of interest is even on the agenda?   

Farmers and their Representatives.
Farmers and in particular hill farmers operate in a very uncertain environment. They are exposed to a range of external factors that the person on a salary just cannot appreciate. Prices fluctuate, schemes are complex and often require professional assistance, unforeseen events such as flooding or a disease outbreak can wreck the best of plans. The new CAP meant a break with the familiar structures of the old; while some of the new schemes were progressive and beneficial such as the increases in the BPS due to convergence and GLAS, however improvements brought changes in administration, changes which many struggled to understand the significance of. 

Familarity with the old schemes had provided a certain comfort and any new regime was bound to bring doubts to the surface. However the delivery of these schemes, GLAS in particular was radically different from the past and confusion and differences of interpretation were unavoidable. Regrettably parts of the proposals were awkward and unworkable. Inevitably some people feared that there was another agenda involved.

The new schemes brought transaction costs with them. Costs are inevitably a big issue for farmers, while the Dept. of Agriculture would argue that transaction costs are covered in the design of the schemes, what is not addressed is that costs borne by farmers are inevitably front loaded. They must pay for a GLAS application, pay for a commonage management plan and wait close to a year for any return. Yes, they are compensated for the costs suffered but there are cash flow implications and for many this is an impossible burden. 

It is no surprise that farmers are often sceptical of new initiatives. They look at past policies such as compulsory destocking and they remember the waste and senselessness of their implementation at farm level. They are intensely aware of the poor age profile of hill farmers, the limited opportunities available to them outside of the farm and the difficulty in getting their voice heard. All of these things affect their collective morale, is it any wonder that farmers only place their trust in those who have earned that trust, is it any wonder that they are reluctant to embrace change because the Dept of Agriculture tell them it is a good thing.
Farmers have to look at the practical implications of proposals. Unlike other stakeholders they have to answer the questions about how stock will be sourced, fed, managed on the hill, how lambs will be finished and sold. They have to assess how issues like poor prices are going to feed into the rosy aspirations about increased sheep numbers on the hill? They are the ones who will have to work commonage management plans through, the ones who will have to improvise solutions and deal with internal disputes. In some cases there may be advisory support, in most, they will be on their own and they know it.    

With the roll out of the new schemes now at an advanced stage, it is the land eligibility issue that has become the core issue for farmers. If land is not eligible for payment than everything else is a moot point. For farmers, this is absolutely central. If GLAS CMP’s are to deliver improvements to commonage management then these cannot be nipped in the bud by an ineligibility finding.  The setting of an MEA (Maximum Eligible Area) within the CMP is an issue of enormous concern to farmers. It needs to be resolved if we are to progress further.
All of this colours the ordinary farmer’s assessment of the situation. The information that they need to make decisions on their flock, their farm and their livelihood is not available to them or where it is, it comes from a quarter whom some may suspect of having an ulterior motive. Farmers and their representatives have come a long way and other stakeholders need to appreciate this. But farm leaders have to be able to bring their people with them, if they cannot demonstrate to their members that engagement has benefits for farmers then their position is weakened.   They have to be able to deliver for their members and lest anyone forget it, their members are the people at the centre of all this. Other stakeholders would do well to remember this.

Farm Advisors;
Farm Advisors are not a single group. They are either part of the Teagasc/ FRS networks or they are private operators. I am going to resist the temptation to discuss Teagasc or the rationale behind their decisions to date. However irrespective of whether an advisor is private or is part of the Teagasc/ FRS network, they are part of a commercial operation. They have to make a profit or they are out of a job. This sounds harsh but it is the reality. Everything else in terms of the role they have to play is built on that premise. To stay in business advisors need to be able to plan their work, they need certainty, they need the tools to do the job and they need the support of farmers and Dept officials alike.    
In respect of the Commonage Management Plans, planning work schedules is not compatible with continued uncertainty and unrealistic or shifting deadlines. Fieldwork is not like working in an office. Short days and bad weather mean that work from Dec – Feb particularly on large sites is just not practical. Ideally this time could be used to finalise plans where fieldwork was completed last summer and autumn, unfortunately the software to do this is not yet available. Of course advisors have other work such as soil sampling to do but the net effect of the delay in the launch of the CMP software will be to push the completion of last summers’ work back till after the 2016 BPS scheme. This puts it into direct competition with the third tranche of GLAS and fieldwork for the remaining commonages. This is intensely frustrating and will lead to serious issues when another deadline looms later in 2016.
Just like farmers, advisors need information to make decisions but they also have to be conscious of the decisions, particularly on prices made by their competitors. Unfortunately many of them found themselves in a position where they felt obliged to get involved in Commonage Management Planning even though they lacked both the time, the training and the skill sets required and had no idea of what a plan would entail or what it would look like. For price, many were guided by what Teagasc had settled on and many have now entered into agreements which may be financially unviable.   
Advisors have to be professional in their work, if they make a mistake they will have to answer for it. While insurance cover provides some protection it is not a suit of armour and repeat claims risk putting an advisor out of business. The roll out of the first tranche of GLAS at the same time as the Basic Payment Scheme applications placed an impossible burden on advisors. You can be certain that errors were made. Thanks to the design of GLAS these cannot be corrected and will hang like a sword of Damocles for the schemes duration. The Dept. of Agriculture and farmers have no appreciation of the pressures involved. If the truth was known you have to be a bit mad to put yourself through it all.  

Where now from here.
First, things are a lot better than they were. Second if we can continue to build trust between the parties than a lot of the other issues will fall into place.  We are very nearly there and I believe the positions held by all sides are a lot closer than many appreciate. More needs to be done but not much more, the time for these last few steps is short, let’s try and make sure that the next few weeks are not wasted.  
If I could finish off with a short wish list for the New Year it would be like this.
  1. Re-assurance to farmers that the Maximum Eligible Area set in a CMP will be forward looking. That the MEA will be the area that the plan is designed to deliver and not based solely on current conditions. This is the key issue, if the plan is designed to deliver the MEA over the plan period and farmers get an opportunity to input into planning for that objective then everything else will fall into place. If this does not happen and farmers are trapped with an MEA based on current conditions then the plan risks becoming completely irrelevant.   

  2. Advisors need the tools to do the work. Completion of the software for Commonage Management Plans before the end of January 2016 is essential.  This cannot wait any longer without worsening the logjam that will develop next summer.

  3. In association with the launch of the CMP software, a comprehensive training seminar for Commonage Advisors must be provided. Training provided to advisors to date was to put it mildly, somewhat inadequate for the complex task involved. The time to organise this is short but that does not mean that planning and delivery can be rushed. Time is short but it will only run out if people let it. Delivery by early February at the very latest is a necessity. Agenda to include;
    1. Management Techniques for addressing eligibility issues.
    2. Planning Fieldwork.
    3. Confidence Building Measures and negotiating techniques.
    4. CMP Software.
  4. That’s it!
    Happy New Year to all.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

GLAS Payments will start this week.

First GLAS Payments Issue

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, has today announced GLAS payments will start issuing this week.
Minister Coveney said “This is another milestone achieved for the roll-out of GLAS, which has already proved one of the most attractive agri-environment schemes ever offered to Irish farmers. Interest in the second tranche of GLAS has again exceeded expectations, with over 14,000 applications submitted”.
A total of 17,625 farmers with a start date of 1 October 2015 will receive a first instalment payment of what is due for the period October to December. The total value of payments comes to just over €11.5m.
He added that he was particularly pleased to see such a proportion of Tier 1 and Tier 2 applications being submitted in this tranche, which together accounted for 80% of all applications received.
Note to editors
Certain actions are eligible for payment in 2015, farmers will see the full value of their GLAS contracts realised in 2016, the first full year of their five year contracts.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Commonage Management Planning- Update

The Dept of Agriculture have appointed advisors to 2238 commonages.  These people are now in the process of developing management plans for their respective commonages.  These plans will be evidence based and specific to the particular commonage.  In many cases advisors will have already walked the commonage, in the majority this work will have to be carried out over the next 7 or 8 months. The actual preparation and submission of a plan will be done using an on line system. The software for this has not yet been made available to advisors. For this reason no plans have prepared to date.

The closing date has been pushed back until well into 2016, while no date has been published yet, it is expected that this will be in August or September. While this may seem a long way off an enormous amount of work has to be done in the interim. Not only does a plan have to be developed for the 2238 commonages referred to above, further commonages will be added to the list as new farmers apply for GLAS 3. The completion of these plans will be a mammoth undertaking and advisors and farmers will need every day to get the task completed.

What does a farmer have to do now? Farmers should ensure that they are involved in the process that they engage with the commonage advisor and make sure that he or she is aware of current practices on the hill and any constraints that they as farmers may be operating under. In particular farmers should ensure that the minimum eligible area is appropriate and that if the advisor proposes a reduction that you understand the reason for it. The stock numbers are a vital component of the plan, you should ask to see the evidence justifying the advisors recommendation, do not be fobbed off with any suggestion that these are the Dept. of Agricultures figures, they may be but they still have to justifiable based on the evidence collected on the ground. Above all make sure that the fieldwork has actually been carried out. While this may seem a strange piece of advice, everyone should be aware that there is a very real risk that some advisors may be tempted to omit this vital task and rely on the Dept. of Agricultures figures alone.  Do not let this happen to you, the advisor is working on your behalf, he should have no difficulty explaining to you the basis for the recommendations that he is proposing.

Saturday 17 October 2015


GLAS 2 will open next week. The Dept. of Agriculture will accept applications for approximately 6 weeks with the scheme expected to close at the end of November. With 13,000 places available (which we expect will be filled) it means that by Christmas almost 40,000 places in GLAS will be taken and only 10,000 or so, approx. 20% left for the third, final and smallest tranche next summer.
While the changes to the Low Input Pasture option will have a negative impact for some people, there is no alternative to the scheme as it stands. The priority now is to make the best of what is on offer and secure your payments for the next 5 years.  While some people may be tempted to wait until the final tranche in the hope of squeezing another year out of AEOS but this course of action is a high risk strategy even for Tier 1 applicants. Leaving GLAS until the last and smallest tranche means that there is no guarantee that you will get in at all. Lets look at an example of a farmer in this position.
AEOS 3 payment of €4,000.
Potential GLAS payment of €5,000
This farmer applied for AEOS in Nov 2012 and received a start date for that scheme in May 2013. He has already received a part payment for 2013, a full payment for 2014 and will soon receive a full payment for 2015. In total he has received €10,660 in AEOS. If he remains in that scheme he can draw down a further €12,000 before his contract ends in 2018. However this will be at the cost of missing out on GLAS altogether, a loss of €25,000. Even after factoring in the costs associated with applying for GLAS the farmer is still down €12,000.
Now, what if he decides to stick it out in AEOS for the moment and apply for GLAS in the summer of 2016. In theory this allows him to draw down a further €4,000 from AEOS and then €25,000 from GLAS, a total of €29,000. However this additional payment also carries a risk, if he does not get accepted into GLAS next summer he is down €12,000. In effect he is staking €12,000 on a bet, if he is lucky he wins €4,000, if he is not so lucky he loses the €12,000 stake. 
Remember as well that GLAS on commonage farms is about much more than just the GLAS payment. It is about securing the eligibility of the entire commonage for all schemes. Participating in the scheme, working with your commonage advisor and fellow farmers helps secure your payments across all schemes into the future. Is taking a chance on this for the sake of €4,000 really a good idea?

Monday 5 October 2015

Postal Disruption and GLAS

With GLAS set to reopen next week, farmers and their advisors are getting ready for what is likely to be a short but very intense application period. While the application process for the scheme is on line and for most farmers the pre-application registration, authorising an advisor can be carried out using text messages, there are two groups where a hard copy application is required. These are herd numbers held in joint names and those farmers wishing to changes advisors. In these cases the farmers or the advisor must submit a paper application to Agfood On Line services. During the first tranche, these were processed quite rapidly early in the application period but faced increasing delays as the campaign progressed.

With no end in sight to the current postal disruption, it is vital that the Dept. of Agriculture take action to provide an alternative system to accommodate these two groups. I would suggest that a scanned copy of the forms submitted by e mail as a pdf should be considered adequate in the short term. If necessary a hard copy could be submitted later.

This issue cannot be left to one side in the hope that the current difficulties affecting the postal service can be resolved. The Dept. of Agriculture should be pro-active about this and prevent these groups of farmers from being dis advantaged by something outside of their control.

Friday 18 September 2015

Knowledge Transfer Groups in Co. Galway

Tirglas will be setting up a number of Knowledge transfer groups in Co. Galway. This scheme is a follow on from the very successful BTAP scheme. The groups provide a forum for farmers to learn from each other in a structure where key topics can be introduced by a facilitator. The first set of groups will be directed at farmers involved in Beef production, it is anticipated that at least two groups will be set up in Connemara, one in the Slieve Aughties and one in the Claregalway area. There is no fee payable by the farmer for participating in these groups. A payment of €750 is made annually to the farmer to cover any costs associated with participation.
To be eligible for the scheme a farmer has to be a member of either the herd plus or Bord Bia quality assurance scheme. If you want to participate in one of these groups please contact us here at Tirglas.

Sunday 6 September 2015

GLAS Tranche 2

GLAS is set to reopen at the end of September. The second tranche will be heavily weighted towards Tier 1, i.e. Commonage, SAC/SPA, Rare breeds and organic farmers. It is expected that a total of 10,000 places will be available with the application period set to close in mid November.
Very important decisions must be made by commonage and SAC/ SPA farmers in the coming weeks. Foremost of these is to review the issue of staying in AEOS for another year or applying for GLAS in this round. While this is a judgement call that can only be made by the individual farmer, you should bare the following in mind.

1) GLAS will have 50,000 participants when the scheme is full.
2) Approx. 26,000 of these places have already been filled.
3) Another 10,000 will be filled by the end of the year.

There are approx. 15,000 farmers with commonage and around 20,000 with SAC/SPA land (considerable overlap between the two groups). Considering that about 9,000 joined up in the first tranche, there would appear to be room to accommodate all remaining tier 1 farmers within the remaining tranches of the GLAS scheme. That said delaying entry until the third tranche is effectively putting all your eggs into one basket, if anything goes wrong at that stage there is very little room for recovery. Such a strategy is also based on the assumption that there will be no follow up scheme to GLAS in the next round of the CAP. This is a very pessimistic outlook to hold. The EU has for decades now been very supportive of agri-environment measures and a complete u turn is very unlikely. And without being too fatalistic, none of us can be sure if we will be around to worry about what might happen in 2020.

The decision is ultimately a personal one but all tier 1 farmers should contact their advisor as soon as possible. Planners will be under incredible pressure this Autumn. GLAS applications, Commonage Management Planning and the soil sampling for first tranche applicants will make the advisors time very precious indeed. The long and the short of it is that if you leave contacting an advisor until November you will probably not get an application in.

I know some people will want to leave the decision about joining GLAS until they see what the commonage management plan looks like. While this may seem prudent, it may not be in the farmers best interests. The reason for this is two fold. First, there is no chance of the Commonage Management Plans being ready in time. Secondly and of even greater significance, the Commonage advisor will build the plan after consulting with the farmers who have signed up, the plan revolves around these farmers and reflects their concerns and aspirations. If you have not signed up you will not be part of this process, your voice will not be heard and you will have to take what you get when you do eventually join. No one can pretend that this is in their interest. Get in touch with your commonage advisor, sign up to the process and get involved. The alternative is to let others make the decisions for you. Remember there will not be a whole lot of sympathy out there for those who complain that the CMP does not suit them when they stayed silent when the plan was being prepared.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

List of Commonage Advisors is Published

The Dept. of Agriculture have published the list of approved commonage advisors. Just under 1,600 commonages now have an advisor. These advisors can now start walking commonages, talking to farmers and developing plans. This is a huge step forward, commonage planning can now finally get out of the traps.
There are about another 1,000 commonages involving at least one GLAS applicant that have not yet had an advisor appointed. The bulk of these (c 800) are commonages where more than one person applied for the Commonage Advisor role, a smaller number are commonages where no advisor applied. In the case of multiple applications, the Dept. of Agriculture will have to make a decision on who to appoint. The method for selecting an advisor in such cases is as follows. First the advisor with the support of the greater number of farmers will get selected, if two or more advisors have the support of an equal number of farmers, than the advisor with the support of the farmers with the greatest number of shares will be selected. If this also results in a draw than the advisor who has the support of the farmers owning the greater number of sheep will get the nod. This will be adequate to break the deadlock in the vast bulk of cases.
In the case of commonages where no advisor has applied, the Dept. of Agriculture briefly reopened the application period and I am sure  at least some of these sites will get an advisor to apply. The remainder will have an Advisor assigned by the Dept. of Agriculture. The farmers will have no say in this process.
The Dept. of Agriculture are also writing to farmers, officially informing them of who the Commonage Advisor is. The farmers on a given commonage must sign up to this advisor, even if they had previously signed up with someone else. Inevitably this means that some farmers will have to deal with a Commonage Advisor who is not their own Farm Advisor. In some cases, farmers with multiple commonages will have to deal with a number  of different advisors. This may make the process a little more complicated but it is unavoidable. If this applies to you, than make sure the two advisors are aware that you are involved in a second commonage and ensure that commitments made in each plan do not conflict with each other.
A full list of Advisors linked to each commonage can be found by following  the link below.

Saturday 15 August 2015

Approval of Commonage Advisors

The Dept. of Agriculture have restarted the process of formally approving commonage advisors. A large number of such approvals issued by post to advisors yesterday. Our estimate is that 50-60% of applications have now been dealt with. We expect the remainder to issue in the very near future. 

Letters to the farmers in each commonage, formally notifying them of the relevant approved advisor can be expected in the coming days. It is important for farmers to note that they must sign a Commonage Authorisation Form for the approved advisor, this applies even if they had previously signed one for someone else. This is required to allow the advisor to access relevant information about the farmers stocking rates and sheep numbers, information that he or she will need to complete the Commonage Management Plan. 

This is a big step forward and along with the guidelines issued earlier in the week will now allow the production of Commonage Management Plans to begin in earnest. 

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Commonage Planning Guidelines

The Dept. of Agriculture published the guidelines for planners to use in the preparation of Commonage management Plans. These guidelines give all parties a clear indication of how the planning process will proceed. The following items are of particular interest.

1)  Methodology to be used to assess a commonage.
2)  Data that will be available to a Commonage Advisor.
3)  Role of the Commonage Implementation Committee.
4)  Format of a Commonage Management Plan.
5)  Amendments to a commonage plan.

The methodology for producing a Commonage Management Plan stresses the importance of a field based assessment of the different habitat types on the commonage. This is based on the observed condition of a large number of waymarks, distributed throughout the site. These waymarks are selected to represent the range of habitat and conditions that are found on the commonage. In aggregate, they give us an indication of the condition of the different habitats. Each waymark is scored by reference to an assessment card which rates it in respect of 6 key parameters. These are Bare Peat, Heather, Sward, Evidence of livestock grazing, Purple Moor Grass and Scrub. The system is comparable with the methodology used in the old commonage framework plans although it has greater flexibility and is easier to use.

This card was developed by ourselves here at yourcommonage working closely with Brian Dolan and Michael Martyn and builds on years of experience in assessing upland and peatland habitats. It was field tested and we are satisfied that it is fit for purpose. It provides a workable method for guiding the planning process and ensures that that plans are evidence based. It does not however cover turloughs, sand dunes,limestone pavement or dry grasslands and perhaps further work is required to develop a method for dealing with sites like these. Nevertheless we now have the tools to get to work on the bulk of Irish commonages, this is a big step forward.

In relation to data to held by the Dept. of Agriculture,, it is now clear that advisors will have access to  data on stock numbers held by those farmers who have signed a Commonage Authorisation Form. They will also be able to request the total sheep numbers held by claimants to a particular commonage. However these stock numbers are indicative only as some farmers may be involved in several commonages and there is no way of apportioning stock numbers to a specific commonage.

The role of the Commonage Implementation Committee has been clarified and it will now serve to adjudicate on requests by advisors for derogations from the normal rules of the scheme. In this regard they will consider requests from advisors for reductions in the minimum stock numbers to be held both by individuals and in some cases for the whole commonage. This is of particular relevance to situations where existing stable flocks would have faced cuts to allow for stock to be held by previously inactive farmers entering GLAS. In these situations, the guidelines now provide for new applicants to contribute as little as 50% of their share of the commonage. This coupled with a widening of the gap between the minimum and maximum stocking rates (up to 20% above or below the calculated sustainable stock number)will minimise the impact on existing flocks and still allow for previously inactive shareholders to participate. Provision has also been made for situations where due to a high level of dormancy or poor uptake of the scheme locally it proves impossible for the participating farmers to meet the commonage minimum. It is also possible for advisors to make allowance for stock held by non participants when they are calculating sustainable stock numbers for a commonage. These are big steps forward and deal with most of the commonly expressed concerns by stakeholders.

The layout of a Commonage Management Plan has been published although on line submissions will not be possible for another 3-4 weeks. It is clear that the Commonage Management Plan will be capable of amendment, not only to allow for new applicants in later tranches of GLAs but also to redistribute the grazing commitments among participating farmers. This is potentially very valuable as we can be certain that the circumstances of individuals will change, perhaps in a manner that prevents them from reaching commitments previously made in good faith. The ability of the shareholders to respond to this and to redistribute stocking commitments allows them to adapt to changing circumstances. It makes the plan workable.

On a personal note, I believe that the guidelines published yesterday address most of the practical concerns held by farmers and advisors. The scheme is not without faults but we can now be assured that plans will be evidence based, will incorporate the concerns of farmers and will be flexible enough to cope not only with varying circumstances but also in respect of future events. We have a massive task ahead, it will take time and there will no doubt be challenges ahead, but the job now is to get commonages assessed, develop agreements between farmers and get payments issued. It has been a long journey, but the scheme we have now is far better then what we were presented with a year ago. The efforts of farmers, in particular the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association and some advisors has I believe paid off. It must also be accepted that the Dept. of Agriculture were open to reasoned arguments, they were willing to accept suggestions and recommendations from stakeholders and these guidelines demonstrate this. The contribution of some politicians to the debate, in particular Sean Kyne T.D., Eamonn O Cuiv T.D. and Marian Harkin MEP must also be acknowledged.

P.S. Two final steps remain, the Dept. of Agriculture must publish the full list of approved advisors and write to the farmers involved as soon as possible. Secondly the software for submitting a plan must be finalised, tested by advisors and rolled out as soon as is practical.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Commonage Guidelines to be issued to Planners.

The Dept of Agriculture will be issuing guidelines to planners in the very near future. This will allow the assessment of commonages to begin in earnest. These guidelines will also provide guidance on how advisors can deal with exceptional cases and details on the role of the Commonage Implementation Committee. To the Dept of Agriculture's credit, the guidelines have addressed many of the concerns that planners and farmers have raised over the last year.

While planning can now begin on those commonages with an advisor (approx 20%), work on the remainder will have to wait until an advisor is officially appointed. The indications are that this will be at least another couple of weeks. There are several hundred commonages where no advisor has applied for the role, these are currently being notified to advisors to see if any of them will be taken up. If this is not successful the Dept will appoint advisors. This process is expected to take until at least the end of August.

While the deadline has been put back to Oct 31st, there is no chance of 2,600 commonage management plans being completed by that date. GLAS will reopen in October, when this happens advisor effort will be diverted to that scheme. By the time GLAS closes in late November, the evenings will have closed in, the chances of bad weather will be greater and progress on fieldwork will slow to a crawl.

Many advisors have underestimated the scale of the work involved, the tasks relating to fieldwork, i.e. assessing eligibility, mapping dumping and encroachments onto a commonage are time consuming and require a thorough and time consuming site investigations. For safety reasons, advisors would be mad to work alone at high altitudes or isolated sites. Coping with this doubles the labour requirement, something which many appear to have omitted from their calculations. Planning agencies dependent on recently recruited graduates will face a mammoth task in equipping, training and organising a large field campaign. I doubt if they really appreciate the difficulties they will face. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some planners, including some very large operations believed that commonage agreements could be achieved as a desktop exercise without the need for any fieldwork. If any advisors are still of this opinion, they need to change tack quick and start planning a fieldwork campaign and follow up engagements with farmers as a matter of urgency.

My advice to advisors, be properly equipped, don't work alone, take the weather into account. To farmers, remember that the Commonage a Management Plan does not just apply to tranche 1 applicants. If you are considering joining GLAS in the future, get in touch with the Commonage advisor to see how they intend to proceed. When you meet the advisor to discuss the plan, insist on seeing the evidence on which they are basing their recommendations, do not be fobbed off by someone telling you that the Dept. of Agricultures figures are fine. Remember it is your payments that are dependent on this plan, make sure it is right.  To the Dept of Agriculture, get letters out to farmers with the formal approval of advisors as soon as possible.

Finally on a positive note, let us put the trials of the last year behind up, the scheme as now proposed is much improved. The rollout is a huge task, many advisors and Dept officials are only starting to appreciate the scale and complexity of what is needed. It will be challenging but we will get through it, there will be issues along the way but at least we will be underway.

Sunday 7 June 2015


Commonage farmers who applied for GLAS must be participating in a Commonage Management Plan by August 31st if their GLAS application is to be approved. The first step in this process is for an advisor to be approved for the commonage. The closing date for advisors to apply for this role is next Friday, i.e. June 12th. If you have applied for GLAS and your commonage is not on one of these lists you should contact your planner as a matter of urgency as there is a very real risk that your GLAS application will fail.

We are trying to establish how many farmers are in this predicament and would appreciate it if you could also let us know by e mailing or by calling (091) 738900.

The list of commonages with advisors is shown below. This list is taken of the Dept. of Agricultures website. Some of the details have been removed for the sake of clarity but the essential details regarding the commonage, the advisor involved and their contact details remain. The list is in two parts, first the commonages where the advisor has been formally approved, listed by County and secondly commonages where an advisor has applied for the role (as of June 2nd). It is likely that most of the advisors on the second list will be approved in the next few days.

You should also note that applications sent in by advisors in the last week will not be on the list, likewise it can be expected that advisors will apply for a significant number of commonages in the week remaining for this purpose.

Approved Commonage Advisors as updated on 2nd June 2015      
Townland Advisor Name Advisor Phone
B11403a Altnadarragh Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
B13502A Copponaghmore Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
B15603A Gubaveeny Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
B11412a Moher Tom Dawson 086-8238283
C10803a Fanore More Stephen Hynes 087-7520436
D10107A Canalough Michael Flynn 087-2492939
D11006a Cullenagh Claire Greehy 087-2657089
D25018A Lacknahaghny Claire Greehy 087-2657089
D24112a Turnaspidogy Claire Greehy 087-2657089
E16001A Altclogh Peter Cannon 087-2923473
E20501A Ardmeen Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E11801A Ballyannan Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E20601A Befflaght Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E20003A Beltany Mountain Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E20003B Beltany Mountain Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E20503A Brockagh Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E16206b Carrick Lower Peter Cannon 087-2923473
E19504A Claggan Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E12004a Connaghkinnagoe Liam McKinney 086-8584457
E16303A Crowanruddabeg Peter Cannon 087-2923473
E16308A Crowlar Liam McKinney 086-8584457
E20604A Derrynacarrow Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E19614A Derryreel Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E24308A Drumnacarry Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E24309A Drumnaraw Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E22307A Glengillagrana High Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E22308A Glenieraragh Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E22311A High Glen Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E16025A Lougheraherk Peter Cannon 087-2923473
E11711A Magheralahan Liam McKinney 086-8584457
E19708A Meenaclady Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E19708B Meenaclady Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E16027A Meenacross Peter Cannon 087-2923473
E16029B Meenadreen Peter Cannon 087-2923473
E16213A Meenaneary Peter Cannon 087-2923473
E22312A Meenformal Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E22313A Meenlaragh Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E19519A Muntermellan Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E20016A Procklis Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E11811A Sharagore Liam McKinney 086-8584457
E22612A Skreen Upper Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E23529A Stramore Upper Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E19932A Tor  Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E22315A Toragh Brian Dolan 087-2334418
E19626B Tullaghobegley Scotch Brian Dolan 087-2334418
G10601A Aillebrack Pat Burke 087-3157304
G10802a Ardkyle Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G11501A Ardmore Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G11203A Arkeen More Pat Burke 087-3157304
G10803A Attirowerty John Staunton 087-6318279
G13101A Ballintleva Aoife Kelliher 086-8117137
G10602A Ballyconneely Pat Burke 087-3157304
G12403A Ballygally Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G13102A Ballynahown North Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G15907a Barranny Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G10306A Barratrough or Streamstown Pat Burke 087-3157304
G10804A Baunogue John Staunton 087-6318279
G12802A Bealadangan Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G12802B Bealadangan Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G25301A Big Island Craig Gilligan 085-7805672
G11001A Bunowen Pat Burke 087-3157304
G11001A Bunowen Pat Burke 087-3157304
G11703A Caher Stephen Hynes 087-7520436
G11703b Caher Stephen Hynes 087-7520436
G11506A Callowfinish Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G12702A Camus Oughter Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G13002b Carraroe North Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G31305A Carrigeen West Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G12208A Carrowgarriff Vincent Costello 087-6598930
G13002A Carrowroe North Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G13107A Cartronlahan Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G10903A Cashleen John Staunton 087-6318279
G10311A Clifden Demesne Pat Burke 087-3157304
G13621A Cloghermore Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G14203B Cloonamore Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G16905A Cloonbar Vincent Costello 087-6598930
G11707a Cloonisle Stephen Hynes 087-7520436
G10904A Cloonlooaun John Staunton 087-6318279
G13622A Clooshgereen Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G10312A Cloughaunard Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G13005B Clynagh Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G14702A Coldwood or Foorkill Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G22606A Corgerry Eighter John Fleming 086-0763027
G13204A Cornarona Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G28807A Cullenagh Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G12412A Curraghduff Middle Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G14204a Davillaun Pat Burke 087-3157304
G10908A Dawras More John Staunton 087-6318279
G13110A Derroogh South Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G11205a Derrycunlagh Pat Burke 087-3157304
G10910B Derryinver John Staunton 087-6318279
G10610A Doohulla Pat Burke 087-3157304
G10315A Doon  Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G10318B Fahy Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G10319A Fakeeragh Pat Burke 087-3157304
G14206A Fawnmore Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G11413A Glynsk Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G12427A Gowlaun Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G11806A Illion West Pat Burke 087-3157304
G12910A Illaunnanownim Aoife Kelliher 086-8117137
G14207A Inishark Island Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G11305B Inishnee Island Pat Burke 087-3157304
G14210a Inislyon Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G13113A Inveran Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G10813A Keelkyle John Staunton 087-6318279
G11516A Kilkieran Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G12705A Kinvarra Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G14213A Knock Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G13208A Knock South Aoife Kelliher 086-8117137
G12616A Knockadav Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G13116A Knockadoagh Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G29106A Knockauncarragh Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G28812A Knockaundarragh Michael Martyn 087-2595401
G11010C Kylemore John Staunton 087-6318279
G110L3A Kylemore Bay John Staunton 087-6318279
G11615A Kylesalia Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G11011A Lecknavarna John Staunton 087-6318279
G10916A Letterbeg John Staunton 087-6318279
G12815A Lettercallow Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G13659a Lettercraffroe Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G10917B Lettergesh East Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G10917C Lettergesh East Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G10918A Lettergesh West Stephen Hynes 087-7520436
G10919A Lettermore John Staunton 087-6318279
G12506A Lettermore Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G11520A Letterpibrum Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G11616A Loughaconeera Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G13209A Loughaunbeg Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G12507A Lugganaffrin Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G12915G Maumeen Aoife Kelliher 086-8117137
G12915A Maumeen Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G10222A Maw Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G28821A Moyglass Michael Martyn 087-2595401
G10920a Mullaghglass Stephen Hynes 087-7520436
G11307A Murvey Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G13514B Newtown Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G10921A Pollacappul Stephen Hynes 087-7520036
G13677B Rusheeny Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G13681A Shannadullaghaun Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G11523A Shannawirra Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G13310A Shannawoneen Aoife Kelliher 086-8117137
G12511A Shanvally Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G11721a Tawnaghmore Stephen Hynes 087-7520436
G12916A Teeranea Aoife Kelliher 086-8117137
G10927A Tonadooravaun John Staunton 087-6318279
G10530A Truska Pat Burke 087-3157304
G13120B Tully Thady O'Brien 087-2302667
G17030a Tulrush Vincent Costello 087-6598930
G12623B Turlough Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G14219A Westquarter Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
H20206A Gortdromakiery Joanne Hamilton 087-2339224
H21426a Kilcurrane East Claire Greehy 087-2657089
H21909A Maulcallee Deirdre Ward 087-1228998
H20925A Tullig Joanne Hamilton 087-2339224
H21206A Derreenatlooig Joanne Hamilton 087-2339224
H23518A Laharan South Joanne Hamilton 087-2339224
H24310A Lyreboy Joanne Hamilton 087-2339224
H25901A Ballynalackan Joanne Hamilton 087-2339224
H21304a Coolanaroo Susan Clancy 086-6031847
H22116A Gowlanes Susan Clancy 086-6031847
H22207A Coomnhaorna West Susan Clancy 086-6031847
K11611A Monasop Andy Dunne 087-2515113
L11502a Boleyboy Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
L11804A Brockagh Upper Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
L10911A Gubinea Wesley Carr 087-7996206
L11211A Killenna Glebe Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
L12509A Killooman Liam Butler 086-1959103
L11606A Lacoon Tom Dawson 086-8238283
L13103A Slievenakilla Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
L10914A Sracleighreen Wesley Carr 087-7996206
L12515a Tonlegee Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
L13207A Tullynahaia Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
MAYO   12  
P11207A Lettertrask John McDonagh 087-9068275
P22201A Aillemore Ian Kenny 087-2501683
P12704B Ballykinletteragh Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P12406A Ballyknock Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P14101A Barnahowna Damian Scahill 086-3954900
P12501A Behy Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P12502A Belderrig Beg Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P16002A Bellagarvaun John Noonan 087-2789936
P16202A Bellagelly South Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P16103A Bunalty Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P16103C Bunalty Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P24403A Bunnahowna Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24404A Carheenbrack Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P16007A Claggan Mountain Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24205a Claggarnagh West Darragh Kelly 086-1852335
P22206A Corryaughany John McDonagh 087-9068275
P22603A Cregganbaun Ian Kenny 087-2501683
P23206B Crott Mountain Andy Ryder 087-7518061
P22605A Cushinyen Ian Kenny 087-2501683
P24408A Derrycooldrim Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24324A Doontrusk Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24502A Furnace Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P12508A Glencalry Lower Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P24411A Glendahurk Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24208A Glendorragha Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P22607A Glenkeen Ian Kenny 087-2501683
P24412A Glennamaddoo Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24504A Glennamong Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24413A Glenthomas Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P22608A Glenummera Ray Gilmartin 087-8325519
P23306A Glenummera Ray Gilmartin 087-8325519
P23516A Keelkill Ian Kenny 087-2501683
P23412A Laghloon Andy Ryder 087-7518061
P22714A Leckanvy John Noonan 087-2789936
P22714A Leckanvy John Noonan 087-2789936
P16106a Lenarevagh Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P16018A Lettera  John Noonan 087-2789936
P22307A Lettereeragh Ian Kenny 087-2501683
P24211A Letterkeeghaun Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24506A Lettermaghera North Michael Martyn 087-2595407
P24507A Lettermaghera South Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P23309A Lettermaglinskin Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
P16020A Maumaratta Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24436A Meennacloghfinny Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24354A Muckinish Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24439D Murrevagh Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24439E Murrevagh Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24441A Oghillees Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24715A Owenduff Ian Kenny 087-2501683
P15911A Owenglass Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P23217B Owenwee Shane O'Meara 086-1852332
P16506A Porturlin Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P24445A Rosgalliv Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24449A Rosturk Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P15912A Sheenamore John Noonan 0872789936
P24451A Srahacorick Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P23310A Srahatloe Andy Ryder 087-7518061
P16023A Srahduggaun John Noonan 087-2789936
P15913A Srahederdaowen Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24508D Srahmore Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P22614A Srahroosky Ian Kenny 087-2501683
P22308A Tawnyinlough Ian Kenny 087-2501683
P24610A Tonatanvally Martin Heffernan 087-2671759
P24512A Treanbeg Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P24452B Treel Michael Martyn 087-2595401
P22820A Tully John Noonan 0872789936
S15103A Cloniff Michael Martyn 087-2595401
U16702a Crowagh or Dunneill Mountain Gerard P. Durkan 086-1600385
U10830a Formoyle Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
U10911A Kingsmountain Brian Dolan 087-2334418
U12609A Rover Tom Dawson 086-8238283
U16305A Tawnalaghta Derek Beckett 086-3636677
U14108A Toberscardan Fergal Boyle 087-3224684
V19609A Cloran New John Geraghty 086-8112060
V21001A Ballyknockane John Geraghty 086-8112060
V21002a Ballypatrick John Geraghty 086-8112060
V19802a Boolagh John Geraghty 086-8112060
V19708A Brenormore John Geraghty 086-8112060
V19803A Cappadrummin John Geraghty 086 8112060
V21005a Graigue John Geraghty 086-8112060
V19809A Killavally John Geraghty 086-8112060
V21007A Killurney John Geraghty 086-8112060
V19810A Killusty North John Geraghty 086-8112060
V20920A Lisnatubrid John Geraghty 086-8112060
V21011A Shanbally John Geraghty 086-8112060
V19618A Tober John Geraghty 086-8112060
V21012A Toor John Geraghty 086-8112060
V19818A Walshsbog John Geraghty 086-8112060
Z21507a Ballinfoyle Upper Laura Johnston 087-2721213
Z11401A Brockagh Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
Z13615A Cullentragh Big Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
Appointments Pending as updated on 2nd June 2015      
Townland Advisor Name Advisor Phone
B11203a Brackley Oliver Crowe 087-2505378
B11402a Altcrock Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
B11408a Gowlan Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
B18305a Teebane Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
E11710A Leamacrossan Liam McKinney 086-8584457
E14612A Cronakerny Mark McConnell 087-2288091
E15802A Corrafrin Mark McConnell 087-2288091
E16304a Crowbane Michael Swenney 086-1917166
E16305C Crowdoo Peter Cannon 087-2923473
E17713A Letterfad Peter Cannon 087-2923473
E18107b Greenan Michael Swenney 086-1917166
E18525a Trumman West Barr Michael Swenney 086-1917166
E19510A Errarooey More Mark McConnell 087-2288091
E19928a Strakeenagh Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E20008a Cashelnagore Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E20012a Dunlewy Near Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E20019b Tullaghobegly Irish Pat O'Donnell 086-8065060
E23618A Glenkeeragh Mark McConnell 087-2288091
G10403a Boolagare Pat Burke 087-3157304
G10405A Derrigimlagh Pat Burke 087-3157304
G10917a Lettergesh East John Staunton 087-6318279
G11209A Tullaghlumman Beg Pat Burke 087-3157304
G11302B Errisbeg West Pat Burke 087-3157304
G11906a Maum West Pat Burke 087-3157304
G13615a Canrawer West Pat Burke 087-3157304
G13615b Canrawer West Pat Burke 087-3157304
G13728A Ower Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G14214a Middlequarter Emmet McGloin 087-2559677
G28901a Derrybrien East Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
G28901b Derrybrien East Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
H22206A Coomnahorna East Susan Clancy 086-6031847
L11013a Launtaggart Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
L13104a Sranagarvanagh Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
P12125B Ratheskin Ian Kenny 087-2501683
P13634A Inishard Damien Coyne 0876598930
P15902a Bunmore East John Noonan 087-2789936
P23206A Crott Mountain Fergal Monaghan 087-2356668
U11201a Castlegal Enda Gilrane 086-3856792
V23005a Drumleagh Michael Ryan 087-9177302
V23017A Moneynaboola Michael Ryan 087-9177302
W11704a Kilclooney Catriona Foley 058-41211
W13907a Boolattin Catriona Foley 058-41211
W14305A Bawnfune Catriona Foley 058-41211
Y19112A Kyle John Mallick 087-2997105