The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, must own up to the fact that there are “serious issues” within his department in processing GLAS applications, according to Sinn Fein’s agriculture spokesperson, Martin Kenny.

Deputy Kenny has also called on the minister to stop putting the blame on farmers and agricultural planners.

He claims that he has spoken to a number of farmers and planners, who described frustrating experiences with the department, in trying to get GLAS applications processed.

Also Read: Department used as ‘scapegoat’ in GLAS payment delay fiasco

“One of the main problems seems to be the digitisation of maps; when they are re-digitised for the purpose of a specific action in GLAS – like coppicing a hedge for example – the area of the new digitised parcel of land doesn’t match up to [the farmer’s] Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application.

“There may only be a tiny difference; but it results in delays in processing the application and the planner having to submit amendments to the BPS application.

These are all problems outside of the farmers’ and planners’ control; yet the farmer ends up being out of pocket.

Another issue is when a GLAS application is submitted, certain parcels of land are designated for certain actions – like low impact pasture, the Sinn Fein TD claimed.

“These parcels will be clearly marked on the application with a reference number; yet planners are receiving letters from the department claiming errors in relation to the amount of area in the parcel for that action.

“It turns out that the error is on the department’s side, as they have incorrectly input the application and are quoting the wrong reference number,” he added.

Nobody is trying to scapegoat the department; but Minister Creed must acknowledge there are serious issues within his department and must stop putting the blame onto farmers and planners.

Speaking to AgriLand recently, Minister Creed refuted the accusations. He said: “To be honest, we’re a bit frustrated now because the finger is being pointed at us unfairly. We have said ‘send us in your nutrient management plans and register in terms of your commonage’.

“We don’t want the full thing; but, we need to know that you are engaging and that is the job of planners. It’s becoming difficult to take that the department is being scapegoated when it is not our fault.”