The GLAS scheme is to open within days, according to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

Speaking in the Dail, he didn’t confirm or deny that the official opening would be announced at the Fine Gael National Conference this weekend, but said it would be within days.

Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Agriculture Eamon O Cuiv had asked the Minister to confirm if the Rural Development Plan was behind target in getting signed off by the Commission and the impact this could have on individual schemes.

Minister Coveney said that the Department of Agriculture is close to getting agreement with the Commission at this stage.

“The intention to try get the letter (of comfort) by the middle of next month is still on track and I anticipate that will happen. Intense negotiations are going on today.

“I hope to have agreement in principle on GLAS in the next few days so we can open it in advance of a letter of comfort next month.

“We are working night and day to get this done.”

He said his Department will continue to work with the Commission to get a letter of comfort from the Commission in March and open other schemes on the back of this. “But I have decided to open GLAS before the letter of comfort arrives.”

He said it was important to get applications in and farmers into the scheme.

He also said that acceptance into GLAS would have to be regulated or there will be chaos with massive pressure on planners.

“If I was to announce today that farmers would be accepted into GLAS on a first-come, first served basis with 30,000 farmers being allowed in we’d have chaos.”

The Department, he said, has to leave a sufficient window to allow farmers and planners put plans in together that are not flawed or rushed and people unfairly disqualified.

“We are trying to have an orderly opening of a five-year scheme.”