Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív, has called on Minister Simon Coveney to meet with commonage farmers regarding issues over the new criteria for the Single Farm Payment (SFP).

Ó Cuív recently asked the Minister whether farmers can be penalised under the Single Farm Payment in 2014 for not keeping commonages in good agricultural and environmental conditions, even if this is caused by arbitrary and out of date stocking limits in the absence of a revised commonage framework.

“Minister Coveney has told me that his Department will be writing to all commonage claimants in the coming weeks setting out the minimum and maximum stocking density for the commonage as assessed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

“It would appear that these stocking densities are being set up by the Department without due consultation with the people that know the most about the capacity of their own land – the farmer.”

He said that the Minister also said that claimants will have a right, if they consider that the figures provided would not meet the requirements of their commonage, to submit an assessment by a professional planner providing alternative figures. “This is once again putting huge cost and onus on local farmers in relation to commonages.

“The simple fact is that until changes to the ewe premium and the interference by the Department in the management of commonage there was no major issues in relation to either under stocking or over stocking of commonages. Descriptions laid down by the Department have inevitably been wrong in the past and there is no reason to believe that they will be any better now.

“I am once again calling on the Minister to sit down with the farmers in commonage areas and to work towards an agreement with them, based on the individual knowledge that each farmer will have their own hill and its carrying capacity. The dictation by the Department, which is only subject to a very expensive appeal with planners being paid by farmers, is not acceptable and has to be resisted at all costs.

“Farmers have again stressed to the Minister that there will be great difficulty in getting a minimum of 50% of active shareholders signed up to the Glás commonage plans and that he needs to change this ruling.”