Ireland is facing massive fines from the European Commission due to what that the Department calls ‘widespread undergrazing’ of commonage lands.
Dr Kevin Smyth, Assistant Secretary, at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture that Ireland has a massive under grazing problem on its commonages and added that it’s not just down to government policy with regard to destocking and the problem of over grazing occurred in the past.
“We have a situation where the number of sheep on the commonages has reduced dramatically. That’s down to decoupling and the age profile of the people involved,” he said.
Dr Smyth said that what we need and what we are looking for is a greater level of activity on the commonages. He said the Department is aware it cannot be done overnight, it has to be done over time.
He warned that the reason the status co cannot continue is because Ireland are facing what he called ‘massive’ fines from the European Union if we leave the commonages the way they are.
“If the EU auditors come over and see the amount of scrub and under grazing on our commonages they will immediately put in a flat-rate dis-allowance,” he said.
Dr Smyth outlined that if we can show a credible plan that can bring the commonages back into Good Agriculture and Environmental Condition (GAEC) we will have a situation where he believes we would buy time and credibility with the Commission to get the commonages back GAEC condition.
“I know it needs time and it’s a long term process. But as I say we have to recognise the reality and the reality is that a lot of our commonages are under grazed. It’s as simple as that,” he said.