The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said he has listened to the to the concerns of commonage farmers and has altered his proposals significantly to address them.

Responding to a parliamentary question on the issue this week he said: “I have listened very carefully to the concerns of commonage farmers and I recognise that these concerns are real.”

The Minister stated that over the course of the consultation process on the Rural Development Programme the Department have adapted and rebalanced our proposals for commonages quite significantly in the light of those concerns.

“A Commonage farmer shall apply individually for GLAS declaring that s/he is complying with the GLAS Commonage Management Plan (CMP). The CMP is to be submitted by an advisor i.e. one advisor and one plan per commonage.¬†Where DAFM identifies that the 50% level of active shareholders cannot be reached the matter will be referred to the Commonage Implementation Committee for consideration and recommendation.”

He also said that it is particularly important to point out that the 50% requirement is based on active farmers only, i.e. those actually grazing the commonage. “To give an example, if there are 20 shareholders on a commonage, and 15 are claiming shares under the Single Payment Scheme, but only 10 of those are actively grazing the land at present, the 50% requirement to trigger priority access to GLAS is just five farmers.”

He added: “I do not believe that a minimum participation requirement based on this model is insurmountable but where real difficulties are being encountered the farmers concerned can approach the Commonage Implementation Committee for assistance. I have also arranged for a series of public meetings at key locations nationwide so that farmers will have an opportunity for themselves to talk to officials from my Department and raise the issues that continue to give them concern.

“In the last few weeks, I think we have brought a good deal of clarity to the situation and I believe that there is a lot of common ground between what I have proposed and what hill-farmers themselves would like to see in place for their own commonages.”