An imminent announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, is due on the closing date for GLAS applications.

And that date is to be a week ahead of the Basic Payment Scheme deadline, which has been pushed back to the end of May. In an exclusive interview with Agriland, the Minister said that this would give farmers and planners alike a three-week extension on the original date of April 30. He said the Department would confirm the exact closing date in the coming days.

The move comes after the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan announced a voluntary month extension for Member States in relation to Direct Payments bringing that deadline up to June 15.

“We are not going to push the GLAS closing date back to the very end day, as I want some flexibility at the end if I need it.”

He also said that almost 8,000 farmers have applied to the agri environment scheme to date, and that some 700 applications were being received a day by the Department of Agriculture for the Scheme.

The Minister said that GLAS was not just for intensive or marginal farmers, but should appeal to all farmers and that there will be room for everyone in the scheme.

The teething problems, he said, concerned broadband issues not the Department’s system. The time it was taking planners and consultants to upload plans, he said, was equally frustrating for his Department as it had invested a lot of time and money in a system to accommodate GLAS applications.

“We can’t have 130,000 farmers in GLAS. Every farmer can’t be in GLAS. So we’ve had to prioritise and not every farmer wants to be in GLAS. If we are accepting 30,000 farmers in this year, there will be room for nearly everybody.

“If we have more than 30,000 applications I’ll have to make some changes to the application criteria, but the plan is to get 50,000 farmers into the scheme, 30,000 of them this year.”

The endgame, he said, is to spend a little over €0.25 billion on the Scheme every year.

But, he said, that at least a week was necessary between the closing dates of the Basic Payment Scheme, which would be the end of May, and GLAS which would be a week before this.