GLAS delays most common payment issue for farmers – IFA

Delays in GLAS payments are a major issue for the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Payments Unit, which has dealt with nearly 800 cases since last September, according to the farming organisation.

Commenting on the matter, IFA deputy president Richard Kennedy said the Payments Unit was established to assist and support farmers facing payment delays – particularly under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) and Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS).

The Payments Unit also handles queries on other direct payment schemes.

Kennedy said: “Given the importance of payments as a proportion of farmers’ incomes, the Payments Unit is there to gather queries from individual farmers and liaise with the Department of Agriculture to sort out any problems and cut down on delays. It’s part of the work IFA does in supporting farmers”.

A total of 95,000 farmers qualify under the ANC scheme. The advance of the Basic Payment happens in mid-October. The remainder is paid on December 1. There are almost 125,000 farmers eligible for the Basic Payment.

Of the 773 cases that the IFA Payments Unit has taken on since September 2017, 475 farmers (61%) have received their payment; while, 298 (39%) cases are still open and are being pursued by the Payments Unit.

A total of 111 of those relate to the GLAS Scheme, which represents 69% of the GLAS delays handled by the Payments Unit.

IFA Rural Development chairman Joe Brady said the high proportion of outstanding cases relating to GLAS didn’t come as a surprise and represented an indictment of the department’s system.

Brady said: “At a meeting with the department, we said farmers don’t need excuses, they need payment. The minister has to acknowledge that the GLAS scheme is not functioning as it should, which is a source of deep frustration for farmers.

Farmers could be waiting another two months if things don’t improve.

“Either the minister gets to grips with it, or he considers an alternative method that delivers in line with the Charter of Farmers’ Rights.”

Significant number of NMPs and CMPs outstanding

However, there is still a considerable number of Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) and Commonage Management Plans (CMPs) yet to be submitted under GLAS. Last Friday (February 2), the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine released the most up-to-date figures on payments.

In a breakdown of GLAS figures, the department revealed that €155.6 million had been paid out to eligible applicants in GLAS 2016 advance and balancing payments, while €155.34 million had been paid out to eligible farmers in 2017.

The department revealed that there are currently 430 NMPs outstanding that must be submitted before payment, while there are also 401 CMPs left outstanding.

A total of €6.23 million of GLAS training payments has also been issued by the department.

Previously speaking on the matter, Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed noted that payments are dependent on all applicants providing the necessary material to qualify for payment.

“All GLAS applications must pass regulatory controls and validations as is the case with all EU co-funded schemes.

“Each application must pass the necessary checks, including the commonage check where applicable, before it can be approved for payment,” the minister said.