Poll: Should GLAS farmers be allowed to make hay while the sun shines?

A number of calls have been made for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to allow farmers in the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) to cut traditional hay meadows (THMs) during the current fine spell of weather.

As it stands, farmers who have THMs under the scheme are not permitted to start cutting until after July 1. The objective of THMs is to promote the maintenance of a traditional method of forage conservation that is beneficial to grassland flora and fauna.

But the minister has been called upon to make a “rapid decision” and to bring the cutting date forward by independent TD for the Roscommon-Galway constituency Michael Fitzmaurice.

Having met with Minister Creed this week to discuss the matter, deputy Fitzmaurice said: “We are after coming out of the toughest winter for farmers in relation to fodder and we need to make sure that they are accommodated immediately.

“There is an opportunity arising from today for a week, which would allow farmers the chance to save some top-quality hay and replenish their stocks of fodder ahead of next winter.

Any reserves of fodder farmers had leading in to last winter have now totally disappeared. There is huge anxiety out there at the moment among farmers that they could find themselves in a situation where they are running out of fodder during next winter or spring.

“They need to be given every possible opportunity to save hay when they can. If farmers have to wait until the current cutting date, there is a danger that the weather could turn and that the quality of potential crops could drop,” he said.

Earlier this year, Minister Creed extended the closing date for grazing livestock on lands covered by the THM measure under GLAS from April 15 to May 1. The independent TD is urging the minister to take further action now which would “benefit farmers in the scheme”.

‘A significant difference’

Similar calls have been made by independent TD Carol Nolan, who indicated that bringing the cutting date forward is a “reasonable” request to make given the fine weather forecast over the next week.

Commenting on the matter, she said: “An additional week or 10 days of meadow harvesting could make a significant difference for many farmers, in terms of harvesting fodder for the coming season.

“I am asking the minister to make an exception for this good spell of weather in order to compensate for some of the difficulties experienced during the bad weather.”

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Meanwhile, the chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) Rural Development Committee, Joe Brady, has also called for the restrictions around the cutting of THMs to be relaxed.

The excellent weather and ground conditions at the moment are ideal for cutting to take place now.

“This will ensure farmers can maximise fodder conservation, which is critical following the significant depletion of fodder stocks last winter and spring,” he said.