GLAS ‘IT issue’ leaving farmers frustrated and unable to pay bills

An “IT issue” affecting the issuing of payments under the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) is leaving many farmers frustrated and unable to pay bills, according to a number of TDs.

During a debate in the Dail recently, the Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle, was questioned on the reported IT problem.

Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris claims that 500 people are still awaiting payment in Co. Kerry, accounting for approximately €2.5 million.

Speaking in the Dail, deputy Ferris said: “Many of the farmers awaiting payment have large overheads. Some have been unable to meet their bank loans.

“Others have had to borrow because their children are attending third level education. They have outstanding bills from co-ops for fertiliser and so on. Nationally, thousands have had their payments delayed because of the problem with the online application system.

This has been ongoing for three years and is not getting any better. In fact, it is getting worse. There seems to be no end or solution in sight.

Meanwhile, independent TD Michael Healy-Rae called on Minister Doyle to clearly explain what the IT issue is.

He said: “If I am a small hill farmer or someone who is struggling and relying on my cheque to come in the post, I want to know what a bloody ‘IT problem’ is.

It is not fair. Each of us gets paid every month, week or so on; but, these people rely on that payment. They want it and are relying on us to come to Dail Eireann to fight for them.”

Minister Doyle explained that department staff are “working night and day to try to get all of the claims picked through and sorted out”.

In an effort to explain the IT issue raised by the Kerry TDs, the minister said: “Some of the applications have had to be done on an individual basis.

When the pay button was hit – but, the applicants were not paid – the applications had to be manually re-examined, as far as I understand it. That is the nearest I can come to defining the IT issue.

GLAS payments

During the debate, Minister Doyle outlined that there are 49,700 active participants in GLAS.

He claimed that more than 40,000 of these will have received their 2017 advance payments by the end of this week – valued at €161 million.

“This represents over 87% of farmers eligible for a 2017 advance payment.

“In more than 3,000 of the outstanding cases, applicants remain ineligible for payment until they complete the steps that they must take before the department can process their payments.

There is nothing that we can do to advance these payments until the applicants complete their obligations. In most of these cases, this relates to outstanding documentation, which they must submit.

“As soon as this is received, and assuming everything is in order, my department will move immediately to issue payments,” he added.

The main issues, according to Minister Doyle, include: the need for advisers to submit farm Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) to the dedicated online system; the commencement of Commonage Management Plans (CMPs) in the case of participants with a commonage action; and the submission of required documentation in the case of the low-emission slurry spreading and rare breed actions.

“To be clear, many of these payments are not delayed, as has been suggested. It is simply the case that it is not possible for the department to make them,” he concluded.