Independent TD Mattie McGrath has offered his support to the hundreds of Hill farmers throughout the Country who are faced with the prospect of being excluded from receiving payments under the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS). Deputy McGrath was speaking as attempts continue to be made by the Department of Agriculture to push through proposals for hill and commonage farmers to form collective agreements prior to gaining access to schemes like GLAS and other schemes under the Government’s Rural Development Plan (RDP):
“The concerns about GLAS and indeed about other aspects of the Government’s rural policy were flagged as far back as April this year when the selection criteria to be applied to applicants for the new environment scheme were deemed too severe in terms of the limit of the number of farmers that would be eligible to participate. The concerns around funding for the schemes were also flagged at that time, so this crisis which has been months in the making is only now reaching boiling point.
What is disheartening here is that both the IFA and the Department of Agriculture are insisting that these proposals around the necessity for hill farmers to form collectives are part of the broader EU CAP deal, when that is a matter that is still under dispute. As far as I understand farm officials in Brussels are not aware of any collective deal on commonages in Ireland or the necessity for them.
It remains true however that even if this were the case, the proposals currently being put forward are being deemed unworkable by the farmers themselves. Local agricultural advisors in the regions affected have stated that It could take years to draw up all these plans, while the Department of Agriculture expect this to be done before applications for the the next Single Farm Payment.
It is just one more layer of pressure on the small farmer that is completely unnecessary, and I am calling on both Simon Coveney and Minister of State Tom Hayes to intervene directly to bring this dispute to a close. 1,700 farmers protesting in Westport which was preceded by 900 farmers in Letterkenny should clearly demonstrate that this not a side issue among the complexities of farm payment schemes, but one which is central to the livelihood of these farmers and their families,” concluded Deputy McGrath.