Commonage farmers in GLAS must ensure that the Maximum Eligible Area (MEA) of the commonage as declared on the 2015 BPS application must not decrease over the course of the GLAS contract, the Department of Agriculture has said.

The the Department’s update comes after the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association said further clarification around eligible land was needed for farmers with commonage.

In a memo to advisors, the Department of Agriculture also stated that farmers in GLAS who have wild bird cover have been given clarification from the Department of Agriculture as to what can be used as cover.

The modification of GLAS Tranche 1 specification for Wild Bird Cover and Hen Harriers state that wheat and barley may be used as a cereal crop for Wild Bird Cover.

An advisory note sent to planners also states that, in relation to hen harriers, the detail regarding rush cover has been changed.

Requirement 6 now states that parcels with rush cover are valuable to the Hen Harrier. Grazing can maintain a suitable mosaic of rush and open area. Mechanical control may be required from time to time to prevent rushes becoming excessive.

Where mechanical control is to be undertaken, the rush cutting regime set out in Appendix 16 should be followed. If topping is not possible due to ground conditions, rushes can be weed licked. The frequency of rush control should be based on the vigour/cover of rushes on a field-by-field basis, but there should be no more than one round of cutting per year.