Creed ‘rules out’ calls for flexibility on THM cutting date

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has ruled out the possibility of allowing farmers to cut traditional hay meadows (THMs) under the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) ahead of the permitted start date this weekend.

In recent days, farm lobby groups and opposition TDs have mounted heavy pressure on the minister to bring forward the cutting date from July 1 (this Sunday) – in light of the exceptionally good weather hitting farms across the country.

The objective of THMs is to promote the maintenance of a traditional method of forage conservation that is beneficial to grassland flora and fauna.

However, in consideration of the long, hard winter that farmers had to endure and its impact on fodder reserves, calls have been made for farmers to be “given the chance” to save hay and replenish stocks ahead of next winter.

However, a spokesman for the minister has dashed hopes of the rules being relaxed this week.

Some farmers have opted to participate in the traditional hay meadow action under GLAS; this means they voluntarily commit to the closure of such meadows until July 1.

“Farmers who do this action are compensated for doing so – they receive €315/ha for this measure and some farmers receive up to €3,150 by bringing in 10ha.”

It is understood that, in total, these farmers will be paid at least €8 million this year for this one action.

“This requirement only means they have to maintain the meadow without cutting until next Sunday (July 1). After that, they’re free to cut and conserve the hay as they would with any other field,” the spokesman said.

‘Common sense’

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue, stated his intentions to “hold the minister to account” on this issue when the Dail returns tomorrow (Tuesday, June 26), if “flexibility is not shown before then”.

He said that – in light of the expected spell of warm, sunny weather – many farmers are seeking a relaxation of the rules by the minister to allow them to save as much fodder as possible.

Given the importance of good weather to save fodder crops, and the unpredictability of weather in general in this country, the request is firmly rooted in common sense.

Michael Fitzmaurice, independent TD for Roscommon-Galway, also said: “Farmers need to be given every possible opportunity to save hay when they can. If farmers have to wait until the current cutting date, there is a danger that the weather could turn and that the quality of potential crops could drop.”

Last week, an AgriLand poll on the issue – which received in excess of 1,000 responses – found that 91% of respondents are in favour of bringing forward the cutting date for THMs under GLAS.