There is no flexibility to extend the deadline for GLAS applications, according to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

This week Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty asked the Minister whether he has plans to extend existing deadlines for applications for any of the various farm schemes, in order to alleviate the workload of agricultural advisers and planners.

However, the Minister said that the EU regulatory requirement for the submission of payment applications by May 15 dictates the deadlines for Scheme applications and in view of this he has no flexibility to extend any application deadlines.

However, he did says he is conscious that one of the main difficulties facing GLAS advisers is the preparation of plans for Commonage farmers, which involves walking the commonages in order to assess them properly, and to propose the best stocking levels and environmental activities.

“In order to speed up the application process, I have provided that applications to join GLAS can be made immediately, at individual shareholder level, with the required Plan following later,” he said.

According to the Minister advisers will now have until July 3, 2015 to submit the required commonage plans, allowing best use of summer conditions to walk the commonages

The Minister said the Department has designed and developed a bespoke GLAS online application system which will assist advisors in the preparation of applications.

This system he said presents the advisors with detailed information of the environmental attributes on each farm at individual LPIS parcel level.

“I am pleased that, following long and complex negotiations with the European Commission, I was in a position to open the new online system on Monday February 23.

“This allows advisors commence preparing GLAS applications for farmers with immediate effect and the feedback so far from advisors is that the system is straightforward and simple to use,” he said.

Furthermore, the Minister said in order to complement the GLAS online system, he put in place resources to assist advisors with any queries they might have, and this is proving very effective, with rapid responses being given to both email and telephone enquiries.

“I am also aware that a number of companies have engaged additional employees in response to increased service demand and this is a welcome development”, he said.