Over 6,000 are no longer participating in the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) for 2021, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has confirmed.

The minister confirmed the news at a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine held last Tuesday (March 30).

In response to a question on the matter from independent Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who asked if it was correct that 6,629 fewer farmers will be participating in environmental schemes this year, the minister replied:

“Regarding GLAS, I provided for that scheme to be continued this year during the transition period. It had been at full participation levels up to this point.

“Some farmers decided not to extend their participation in the scheme by one year, so that accounts for the drop-off in participation levels.

Noting that this accounts for “approximately 6,000 fewer farmers”, he explained: “Those 6,000 farmers chose not to renew their participation in the scheme for this year.

“Obviously, the opportunity was there for them to take part,” Minister McConalogue said.

The minister said that, in spite of efforts to make the extension of GLAS “as practical and free of hassle as possible”, these farmers decided to not continue participating in GLAS for an extra year.

Commenting, deputy Fitzmaurice said: “It is unfair to say farmers basically did not bother themselves to avail of the opportunity with GLAS.

“The reality under the scheme for those leasing a farm is it would be necessary for the lease to last for five and a half years, or six years to be comfortable.

“If such a lease was coming to an end and the land concerned included one of the main projects for qualification for GLAS, the department made provision for such land not being available again. The result, though, was some of the payments in situations like that fell to about €1,500.

“It was not worth filling out the GLAS application and that is why we have lost approximately 6,000 farmers in the scheme. That means there is less money in the economy,” the independent TD argued.

Responding, the minister said: “My objective as minister is to support farmers and farming incomes in every way I can. I am constrained in how I can do that in a transition period between one CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] programme and another.”

The minister said that this year schemes such as GLAS, Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) and beef schemes are being continued and additional new funding had been allocated for measures such as the incoming agri-environment pilot.