Commonage meetings start tonight

The first meeting of the new Commonage Implementation Committee will take place on Tuesday, August 26, while, separately, tonight (Wednesday) the recently-formed Concerned Hill Farmers Action Group will host a public meeting in the Knockranny House Hotel, Westport, at 8:30pm.

According to the group’s spokesman, Brendan Joyce, the group has invited all the TDs and the MEPs from the Mayo, Sligo and Connemara region to the meeting over farmer concern’s in regard to the new GLAS scheme. “It is now becoming apparent to hill farmers on the ground that the current Rural Development Programme, specifically where GLAS is concerned, is not practicable and changes will be required.

“Yes, the draft of the new Rural Development Programme has been sent to the European Commission. But, no doubt, Brussels will come back to Dublin seeking clarification on a number of issues within the next few months. There is nothing to prevent the Department of Agriculture formally submitting changes to the programme at that stage.”

The Commanage Implementation Committee is chaired by Joe Healy, a livestock farmer from Galway and former President of Macra na Feirme, and former Chairman of Athenry Mart. He will be assisted by two senior Department officials with specific experience in this field and two technical experts, one from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and one from Teagasc. Also appointed to the Committee is Andy McGarrigle, former Head of the Department’s SPS Entitlement Division, who retired earlier this year.

Minister Coveney said that he was conscious of the very real concerns of many hill farmers and that his priority had been to get this Committee up-and running without delay. “I see this Committee as playing a key role in assisting Commonage owners as they make the transition to a new CAP. I know that farmers are being asked to change some of the ways they do things and it is understandable that they will have concerns”.

“However, I believe that what we have put forward is achievable and in the best interests of farmers themselves. This group will allay any concerns or misunderstandings that may currently exist in relation to the new CAP and will work to ensure that it is workable as well as generous for commonage farmers. I look forward to receiving detailed feedback from the Implementation Committee as it carries out its work”.