The 2016 debacle over the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) payment cannot be repeated, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

This was one of the key messages conveyed by the Deputy President of the IFA, Richard Kennedy, at the meeting of the Farmer’s Charter review group in Portlaoise yesterday, July 13.

In relation to scheme payments, Kennedy called for all outstanding GLAS payments to be made without any further delay – as well as a full pay out to all applicants under the 2017 scheme later this year.

It was also revealed at the meeting that a total of 1,330 farmers have applied to the 2017 National Reserve – of which 1,160 were young farmers and 170 were new entrants.

The department reportedly gave the IFA an assurance that processing of these applications is underway so that eligible applicants will be paid in early December.

Under the Young Farmer Scheme, Kennedy said 9,950 farmers have applied – of which 1,630 are first time applicants.

Meanwhile, the IFA was also assured that the charter commitments on Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) involving payments in the third week of September will be delivered on.

In relation to the advance basic payment, which is due on October 16, a request for a 70% advance was made by the IFA – a request the department committed to supporting with the EU Commission.

According to Kennedy, these vital payments must be delivered on for the charter to have credibility among farmers.

Processing of BPS/Greening payments ‘ahead of schedule’

At yesterday’s meeting, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) welcomed the news that the department is “ahead of schedule” in the processing of this year’s Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening payments.

Deputy President, Pat McCormack, said it is expected that these payments will meet this year’s timelines without a repeat of the chaos that accompanied recent GLAS payments.

Farmers will be encouraged by the update, but final judgement will be retained until the actual timelines are reached and performances can be more accurately assessed, he said.

Autumn is the season of farmers’ bills and it’s hugely important that the ANC payment is made as early as possible in September, while the BPS/Greening payment must be paid on October 16 for all farmers – with the advance payment of at least 70% made as usual.

“This is permitted under EU regulations and we want the maximum amount possible paid to farmers in the first instalment – as has been the case in recent years – so that bills are paid and no extra interest is accrued on outstanding debt,” McCormack said.

Communication with farmers

It is also crucial that the department informs farmers of problems or errors as speedily as possible, so that issues can be resolved and finalised well in advance of the payment date, McCormack said.

“No issue is a cause of more complaint or frustration than farmers getting correspondence from the department close to – or even after – the payment date, citing issues that are holding up their payment and it is essential that all such queries are issued to farmers before September 1.

“We cannot have a situation, for instance, where farmers are told their application is gone for digitisation in October or November and so will delay their payment.

“These issues or similar problems need to be resolved now,” McCormack concluded.