Wednesday 1 April 2015

GLAS Deadline extended to May 22nd

The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney T.D. has announced that the closing date for GLAS applications will be extended to May 22nd and that for the Basic Payment Scheme to May 29th. The statement was made in response to a parliamentary question by Eamonn O Cuiv T.D.  This extension is very welcome and moves the process of preparing applications for a significant number of farmers to something approaching a viable timeframe. For farmers in commonage areas the extension must be accompanied by moving the date for completion of commonage management plans back to at least the end of July.

As it stands the window of opportunity between the closure of the Basic Payment scheme and the latest date for lodging commonage management plans is now only 5 weeks. 

I know that in our practice every member of staff has been on a six day week for the last 2 months, most working 10-11 hours a day, this is not sustainable for another 3 months. If Commonage Plans are to be completed in quantity and of adequate quality as much time as can possibly be granted must be made available. These time constraints apply to every farm advisory service provider in commonage areas and without some relaxation the first tranche of GLAS will not reach its goals, without more time, tier 1 prioritisation for commonage farmers will count for very little.  Advisors and farmers need extra time to prepare CMP's. While I appreciate that the Dept. of Agriculture need a certain amount of time to look over the plans received, this task cannot be equated with walking up to 4,500 commonages and negotiating agreement between close on 15,000 farmers.

If extra time is not granted CMP's will in many cases be rushed, less scrupulous advisors will force through the guideline min/max figures because they lack the time and perhaps the expertise to assess and scientifically justify more appropriate figures. As a result many farmers risk getting landed with an unsuitable plan. Others face the near certainty of their GLAS application failing because no CMP is submitted. An extra three weeks will not solve the problem but it will get thousands of commonage farmers over the line who would otherwise be left behind. It is the least they deserve and it is entirely within the Ministers gift.

An excerpt from the Ministers statement in the Dail follows.  

"I acknowledge the importance of the role of agricultural advisers in GLAS, the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme. Their professional expertise and experience are vital to the preparation of reliable GLAS applications that fully comply with regulatory and scheme requirements. That is why I have made it mandatory for all GLAS applications to be submitted by an approved GLAS adviser.
The negotiations with the European Commission on the scheme's details were long and protracted, which is why the earliest date I could open it was 23 February 2015. The original deadline set for submission of applications was 30 April. Admittedly, this was tight but there was no real opportunity to extend this without impinging upon the deadline for direct payment applications generally, a deadline fixed for many years by regulation as 15 May.
However, I have been working closely with the European Commission to get this regulatory deadline extended and I am delighted we have achieved some flexibility on this front. While we do not yet have the Commission's proposal, it is my intention to extend the GLAS deadline to 22 May, if possible, which will provide significantly more time to submit applications for this first tranche of GLAS.
To date, I am pleased a total of 9,119 applications have been created on the GLAS online application system. We are almost at the 10,000 mark and there is still quite some time to go. It is possible to push the basic payment and GLAS deadline back to the middle of June but there would be consequences to that. I am determined to get our basic payments out to farmers at the earliest possible date in mid-October. If we push the applications dates back, then the processing becomes much more difficult with the time available. I am also anxious that there would be at least a week separation between when the GLAS deadline and the basic payment closes. We do not want them all coming in on the same deadline with farmers who leave it to the last minute trying to get all their basic payment and GLAS applications in on the same day. We do not want our backs up against the wall but to have a little bit of breathing space, which is why it is the end of May for the basic payment scheme and a week earlier, 22 May, for GLAS applications. There is some flexibility with these dates but I would like us to achieve our deadlines by these dates too."

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