Hill and commonage farmers are threatening to withdraw their goodwill allowing access to hills, commonages and walkways unless the Minister agrees to a face-to-face meeting to address their issues.

In an open letter to the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, the Steering Committee of the Hill and Commonage Farmers for Action group say the Minister must deal directly with them to resolve their issues around the current proposals for the GLAS scheme.

They say a compromise was reached, following weeks of protesting and meetings, which they say has now been reneged upon by the Department.

“The Department had totally ignored the agreement we had reached. When challenged at the meetings it was claimed that no agreement had been reached. When contacted, the implementation committee said they only had the power to make a recommendation to the department of Agriculture. It is disquieting to think that the Department of Agriculture have their own agenda which they are working to, irrespective of farmers views,” the letter states.

The group is now looking for a face-to-face meeting with the Minister to resolve the issue and says further delays are unacceptable as it will be January 2017 at the earliest before farmers will receive a full years payment from GLAS.

“Our needs are very simple. Firstly we need to be allowed to enter GLAS as an individual farmer, the same as any other farmer in Ireland. Secondly the Commonage Management Plan needs to be instigated, managed and paid for by the Department of Agriculture so that commonage farmers only have to pay for one plan , the same as every other farmer. Access into GLAS should not be delayed until the completion of these plans. All other issues relating to the mechanics and time frame for plans can be dealt with.”

The letter goes on to say that if there is a failure to engage in meaningful dialog to ensure the survival of our rural agricultural communities our next action will be the withdrawal of their goodwill allowing access to hills, commonages, and walkways.

“We do not want to do this and we feel if reason prevails it should not be necessary. All we want is a scheme which we have input into and that reflects the reality of farming in very difficult conditions and in very sensitive environmental areas.”