Saturday 21 March 2015

GLAS and Commonages, What you need to know.

Thanks largely to the campaign run by the hill farmers in Donegal and the West, commonage farmers can now apply for GLAS and subsequently develop a commonage management plan. While the closing date for both of these is very tight, currently April 30th and July 3rd respectively, we are confident that following the pushing back of the BPS closing date that the GLAS and CMP deadlines will also be extended.

The decision on a farm and commonage advisor is a key first part in the GLAS application process. For many farmers who have participated in REPS or AEOS they may well have a long standing and valued relationship with their farm advisor. This is a very positive start, the commonage advisor is however a very different issue, this is a completely new field and the decision on the advisor to choose will be the first of many key decisions that will have to be taken in respect of the commonage over the coming months. To choose an advisor first you should look at the package that the advisor is offering, this includes price but also the skills and experience that they bring to the table. While approved advisors are listed on the Dept. of Agricultures website, this only means that the Dept. will accept plans submitted by that individual, it does not mean that the individual concerned has the appropriate skills and experience to produce a plan that is workable and will protect farmers interests into the future.

Remember a 500 Ha commonage could in theory be delivering up to €185,000 a year in payments to its active shareholders by 2019. Over the 5 years and 3 months of a GLAS contract such a hill could be contributing almost $900,000 in payments across all schemes to participating shareholders. This is a huge amount of money, if you were building a house you would not pick an engineer because he is a nice guy or because he lives down the road, you would have to be certain that he is competent to deliver on your investment. Farmers should look on a commonage project in the same way, the decisions have to be made rationally with the seriousness that is due to a project of this size.

You should also examine how the advisor proposes to deliver the service, how is he going to establish what is a workable stocking commitment from each farm? how is he going to determine an appropriate stocking rate for the commonage? If the answer is that he sees this as largely a desk exercise to facilitate GLAS applications then he may well lead you to disaster.  A relatively cheap price is very bad value if it costs you your livelihood.

Continuity of service is also a very important issue, beware of agencies who offer a service dependent on large numbers of newly recruited advisors with little experience and who may well be laid off once the peak of GLAS work has passed. You must be sure that whoever you deal with is in this for the long haul and will be there for you if there are difficulties in the future.

These are  big decisions, think about them very carefully, but act quickly, ideally in co-operation with your neighbours. If you do not, it is possible that other people in the commonage will make the decision for you, a decision that you will be bound by. Shop around, find an advisor who suits your needs. He or she need not be the advisor that you deal with for your individual application. These are separate issues and while it  may seem to be more efficient to deal with a single individual, it  is only a good idea if the package fits your needs in all other respects.

These are crucial months for hill farmers, make the right decisions and make them for the right reasons.

For our followers on facebook and twitter we are offering a €100 discount on the cost of a GLAS plan where the booking is made by e mail or private message. To avail of this offer please message us on facebook or twitter.

P.S. For your information I have posted a link below that will direct you to the Dept. of Agriculture commonage site where you can get further information on your particular commonage.

No comments: