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.