There were two very interesting contributions developments arising from parliamentary questions asked by Michael Fitzmaurice TD and Eamonn O Cuiv TD on the last day of Dail sittings in 2014. The responses by Minister Coveney are very significant for commonage farmers and the development of the GLAS scheme.
First if we take the question asked by Michael Fitzmaurice regarding the position of tier 3 farmers and GLAS applications in 2015. These are farmers who do not have Commonage or NATURA lands and who in a position to avail of the tier 2 actions. At the training courses held for farm advisors the Dept of Agriculture had indicated that such people along with non commonage AEOS participants would not be allowed to apply in 2015. This was intended to direct planner effort towards producing commonage plans. Many Farm Advisors considered this as a dubious policy and questioned whether it could be enforced. It now appears that they have been proved right.
With 30,000 places in 2015 and only 10,000 in the following years, tier 3 farmers really have only one chance to get into GLAS, they must apply this year. This will clearly divert planner effort away from commonages.
The impact of this must be seen in conjunction with the Minister response to Eamon O Cuiv’s question. As part of that reply the Minister confirmed that GLAS will not open until February and even that is dependent on receiving a letter of comfort from the EU Commission. The delay to the opening of the scheme and the inclusion of tier 3 farmers for 2015 leaves the Dept. of Agriculture’s original commonage proposals in tatters.
The 12 point plan put forward by the Hill Farmers was adapted from the proposed implementation strategy in the Commonage Case Studies report written by Fergal Monaghan, James Moran and Michael Martyn. This plan addresses the limited window for producing commonage management plans and deals with the issue of individual applications in a workable manner. It is not perfect but it is achievable.
A solution must be found in the next 10 days, the Minister has the answer on his desk. The proposed implementation plan is realistically the only show in town.