As of today, April 25th there are only 101 Applications pending for the Commonage Advisor role. This must be a big concern for the Dept. of Agriculture and for the 2,500- 3,000 commonage farmers who have applied for GLAS. If the GLAS Commonage Management Plan is not submitted by July 3rd, then the GLAS applications made by the farmers involved will fail. To remedy the situation, action from all parties is required now. The Dept. of Agriculture must push out the closing date for Commonage Management Plans considerably. But advisors and farmers too, must look carefully at their own position and act immediately on those aspects of the process that they are in a position to influence.
To fully appreciate what is going on it might be useful to look at the pattern of applications to date by county and by advisor. Geographically 42 applications have been made for commonages in Co. Galway, 33 in Mayo and only 26 in the rest of the country. No applications at all have been made for commonages in Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford and Cork all big commonage counties. Only 2 in Wicklow (both by yourcommonage) and just 4 in Kerry. In total applications for the advisor role have been made for commonages in just 7 out of the 25 commonage counties (Monaghan has virtually no commonage).
As regards the planners involved, Yourcommonage.ie planners account for 31 out of the 101 on the list. Michael Martyn has applied for a further 25 and Brian Dolan from Donegal and John Staunton from Letterfrack another 12 each. These 4 planning agencies between them have made 80 out of the 101 applications. Another 9 planners account for the remaining 21 commonages. While I am certain that other planners are working on applications and that the number of planners in the process will grow, it will not grow dramatically. Commonage work is demanding and requires a level of understanding of the dynamics of upland farming, that can only come from experience, as a result the pool of potential planners is inevitably quite small. Most of the people with the level of interest and experience required have probably already applied for approvals and are on the applications pending list. It is no accident that the two largest agencies in terms of applications, that is Yourcommonage.ie and Michael Martyn have been involved with commonage framework planning, commonage monitoring, farm advisory work, policy development and research for nearly 20 years. These people have made a personal investment in the issue and have the commitment to make it work for the farmers.
The implications of this for farmers are dramatic; no commonage advisor by May 22nd or no commonage plan by July 3rd and they will not get into GLAS. To prevent this happening, advisors, especially those who do not wish to get involved in commonage work should put their own commercial rivalries to one side and facilitate the appointment of a commonage advisor. If they do not they are letting their own clients down and in the long run undermining their own position. Farmers too must take more responsibility for engaging a commonage advisor, sure it is a big decision and ideally they would have more time to consider it, but the reality is that if they do not make that call well before May 22nd their GLAS applications will fail and the planning fees that they have already paid out will be for nothing. If their GLAS advisor has not or will not apply for the role they must take the initiative and ask someone who will. In my assessment the planners who have already stepped up to the plate are the ones with the interest and drive to make this process work. If you need a commonage advisor, the current applications pending list published by the Dept. of Agriculture is the place to look.
The current list of applications pending can be seen by following the link below.