Implementation of the new commonage framework is an ongoing process according to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.
Responding to a parliamentary question this week he stated: “This is a sensitive issue as there are thousands of commonages across the country. We have a new commonage framework programme that needs to be implemented in partnership with the farmers in question and the National Parks and Wildlife Service which has a role to ensure commonages are farmed appropriately.”
The Minister commented: “If they are overgrazed, stocking rates should be reduced, while if they are undergrazed, which is the case in respect of much commonage land, stocking rates need to be increased. “
However according to the Minister a complication arises if multiple farmers are farming the same commonage as one. He said in this situation there has be an agreement from a majority of them. If necessary, we will go commonage by commonage and sit down at local meetings to bring people on board with the scheme.
The Minister outlined: “Farmers will not receive an instruction on the programme from me by letter and it will not be introduced by enforcement. We have had 18 months of discussions to see how best we can do this with farming organisations and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to introduce the programme in as sensible and practical as a way to get the right result both for farmers and the environment.”
For the Minister the important point is that the European Commission sees progress in this area. He said: “There has been progress as the liaison process is under way, but there will be difficult commonage areas that will require local public meetings to be held.”
“We are planning that structure with the farming organisations in order that it can be rolled out over time. Implementation of the new commonage framework proposals will not happen overnight, as the Commission will understand. Most of the commonages will sort themselves out, but there will be potential problem which will have to be dealt with sensitively.”