The acronym GLAS stands for Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme.
The new initiative ties in with the green vision for Irish agriculture as contained in Food Harvest 2020 and as promoted by Bord Bia in the Origin Green campaign.
The scheme is green as it preserves Ireland’s traditional hay meadows and low input pastures; low-carbon as it retains the carbon stocks in soil through margins and habitat preservation and practices such as minimum tillage and agri-environment as it promotes agricultural actions which enhance the rural environment.
According to the consultation document published by the Government yesterday, relevant rural development priorities for GLAS include restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems.
Promoting resource efficiency and supporting the shift towards a low carbon and climate resilient economy are other key priorities, as is knowledge transfer and innovation.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the inclusion of an agri-environment climate measure is compulsory under the rural development regulation.
The proposed scheme will deliver overarching benefits in terms of the rural environment whilst addressing the issues of climate change mitigation, water quality and the preservation of priority habitats and species.
Courtesy of its EU obligations, Irish agriculture must meet the twin objectives of environmental sustainability and productivity gains as set out in Food Harvest 2020 in the years ahead. In order to contribute to the mitigation of the environmental impacts of Food Harvest 2020, GLAS has been designed to achieve the delivery of targeted environmental advice and best practice at farm level.
It aims to work within the framework for environmental sustainability as set down by key EU Directives and national and international targets. These are: the EU Climate Change and Renewable Energy Package and the Kyoto Protocol; the Water Framework Directive, the Groundwater Directive and the Nitrates’ Directive; the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive and the European target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2020.
With regard to its envisaged structure, the proposed minimum contract under GLAS will be five years. Payments for Natura sites are included in the general scheme under specific actions (Farmland Habitat Conservation, Conservation of Bird Species, Uplands Conservation). All actions must go beyond the baseline for the Single Payment Scheme.
What are the core requirements for GLAS?
In the first instance all farmers in the Scheme must comply with a number of core requirements. These aim to ensure that farmers have an enhanced level of environmental knowledge, evidenced by records kept of actions delivered and underpinned by a plan for nutrient resource efficiency on their holding:
A Farm Advisory Service (FAS) approved agricultural planner must prepare the GLAS application. A Nutrient Management Plan for the whole farm must be in place before payment issues. Knowledge Transfer by means of a training course for specific actions complemented by on-line demonstrations/advice on good environmental practices must be undertaken. There wil also be a record keeping obligation.
A two-tier entry mechanism is envisaged for GLAS . In Tier 1 priority will be given to farmers who choose at least one action from a Priority list in order to join the scheme.
Some of these actions will be mandatory for farms in certain locations: e.g. farms with watercourses must choose the protection of watercourses action. Those in freshwater pearl mussel areas must address that issue.
The ‘Uplands Conservation’ action will require that farmers form a grazing association and apply as a collective, with at least 80% of the farmers on the commonage signing up.
Once all places under Tier 1 have been filled, and if there is capacity, a selection process will be used to allow other farmers who have chosen actions from the General list to join the Scheme. The selection process will apply weightings in terms of environmental benefit to actions and a scoring system will be used to allocate places.
Farmers can choose additional actions from the Priority list to bring their payment to the maximum of €5,000. Planners will be required to advise farmers to choose actions most suitable for their farms and which deliver the greatest environmental dividend.
New actions specifically for tillage farmers have been included in order to encourage uptake and to increase the number of climate change options.