The GLAS agri-environmental scheme is to open from Monday, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has announced.

Speaking at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Castlebar, the  Minister announced that the new €1.4bn agri-environment scheme GLAS, will open on Monday.

Minister Coveney said his announcement marked the end of what had been a long and complex process of negotiation with the European Commission, out of which the new scheme has emerged virtually unchanged and strongly endorsed.

“A total of €1.4bn has been allocated to GLAS over the lifetime of the programme, allowing a standard ‘package’ of up to € 5,000 for eligible farmers per annum, with an additional package of €2,000 per annum for those in GLAS+, in return for exceptional environmental commitment.

“While the formal approval process for the RDP as a whole has still to be completed, we now have a very clear understanding with the European Commission as to the shape of the new scheme, its priorities, the actions that should be applied and the rates of payment that will be made”, the Minister said.

He also said that having reached this level of agreement, and in order to allow maximum time for farmers to prepare their proposals, he has  decided to launch GLAS from Monday morning when preparation of applications can commence.

The completed proposals may then be formally submitted when the first tranche opens, following confirmation of the agreed content of the Rural Development Programme, which is expected shortly.

The inclusion of an Agri Environment Climate Change Measure is compulsory under the Rural Development Regulation and no Rural Development Programme can be approved without first satisfying that requirement.

The Minister announced that he was extending GLAS+ to all farms identified as habitats of endangered birds, including the hen harrier. This means that all such farmers will automatically receive up to €7,000 a year, if the area they have to manage is large enough.

The Minister also said he was simplifying the application process for Commonage farmers.  The requirement for 50% participation has been reconfigured as a target, rather than an eligibility criterion, and all shareholders can now submit individual applications to join GLAS in their own right.

Commonage advisers will also be given more time to complete the necessary plans.