Opinion

GLAS is no REPS and is hampered by lack of clarity

GLAS may fundamentally be a good scheme and, in time, may turn out to be a good environmental scheme, but it was introduced too early and may fall on its own sword as a consequence.

Now, instead of a scheme that should be lauded as an environmental bonus for the country, it’s being bogged down with complaints and uncertainty as planners grapple with farmers queries and their own lack of understanding of the scheme.

Confusion can lead to anger and there is a danger that opinions among farmers could move firmly against the scheme unless its cleared up. Farmers conversations with each other are often the make or break of such schemes.

One of the great advantages of REPS and one of the key reasons it was some popular among farmers was the very clarity which GLAS is currently lacking. Farmers always knew where they stood with REPS.

However, GLAS is being hampered by a lack of definitive and clear answers. Too many planners are still awaiting approval from the Department, hampering their ability to help current clients or look for new clients.

It seems the online system is not fit for purpose yet and it won’t be a simple straightforward process to submit plans and bob’s your uncle!

Few planners are as yet fully up to speed, or can be expected to know the ins and outs of every farms situation and demands and there is talk that planners may call this week for the scheme or the application deadline to be postponed.

However, the Department has said all along that applications must be in early if the Scheme is to go ahead and applications are to be processed this year.

Meanwhile, farmers are being asked to sign up to a five-year that allows for no changing to plans, unless force majeure etc circumstances, yet the availability of information is only trickling through.

As one farmer at a recent meeting put it ‘we’re being asked to walk blind into this scheme on a few weeks’ notice’.

Information, it seems, remains a ‘work in progress’ as meetings try to iron out what farmers can and can’t do. And then there’s no guarantee of entry.

Too many farmers, through no fault of their own, will be signing up to enter a scheme they don’t fully understand or know how to maximise their applications and perhaps not be able to claim as much as they could.

With the average GLAS payment being touted at €3,000 and fees in the region of €1,000 it’s not a no brainer by any means.

How many farmers will be accepted into the system this year, is still unclear, while the closing date that was originally communicated of May 15 has now been brought forward to April 30.

The demand from farmers this year will tell a lot. It’s unknown how many will be accepted into the scheme this year and it’s still not guaranteed that another tranche of the scheme will be available in 2016.

So, farmers have a very short window to decide if this scheme is for them, and or take a chance and wait for another possible tranche of the scheme next year, when the issues should be ironed out and planners, and farmers themselves, have a better understanding of the scheme and how to maximise to the best potential of the farm.

GLAS is, in theory, a great scheme, but there are a lot of issues and it seems to have been pushed through for short-term political gain, which may backfire on Minister Coveney.

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