The pilot agri-environment scheme that is being proposed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will be “no better than GLAS [Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme]” for payments – but more challenging to comply with, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has warned.
ICSA rural development chair Tim Farrell has said he is getting worried that the Department of Agriculture does not share the ICSA ambition for a worthwhile agri-environment scheme that will provide a real option for farmers.
“We are hearing that the pilot agri-environment scheme will be no better than GLAS [Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme] in terms of the payment – but that it could be much more challenging to comply with.
If we are serious about biodiversity, climate change and other environmental goals, then farmers who deliver public goods must be adequately rewarded.
Farrell was speaking after this week’s Rural Development Monitoring Committee meeting, which took place yesterday morning (Thursday, March 19).
“There is a very serious opportunity cost to being in an agri-environment scheme. For example, not being able to cut hay while the sun shines in June when participating in the traditional hay meadow measure in GLAS.
Highlighting that the opportunity costs are “much more than that”, the chairman highlighted:
Farmers who get into a new agri-environment scheme are investing a lot of time in measures and bureaucracy that could be much better rewarded by off-farm work.
“Many farmers will be far better off to see how they can benefit from dairying, either by entering dairying themselves, or contract rearing, or long-term leasing for tax-free income,” he warned.
“The government and EU are being totally disingenuous in speaking about the EU Green Deal or our own green credentials if they don’t put in place a really attractive agri-environment scheme that delivers three times as much benefit as the current GLAS,” he claimed.
“However, the expenditure proposal regarding the EU recovery instrument funding of €190 million shows where priorities lie.
It is proposed that more than half of this money is allocated to TAMS [Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme], while they talk about a mediocre level of payment for agri-environment.
“This is a clear signal that they are not really serious about a more ecologically focused agriculture.
“The ICSA will continue to fight for a really worthwhile agri-environment scheme because it is essential that we create options for the non-dairying sector.
“Otherwise, the whole structure of Irish agriculture will become unsustainable,” Farrell concluded.