Following a meetings with hill farmers in recent weeks, The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said his Department is trying to resolve the problems in relation to the new GLAS scheme and have had some success.

The Minister for Agriculture said in the Dail today, that hill farmers in commonage areas, predominantly in the west – particularly in parts of Counties Galway, Mayo and Donegal – have expressed concerns and the Department have listened.

He said the Department have dealt with concerns relating to Pillar 1 payments, so farmers in commonage are not now required to have a certain stocking level to get payments.

“This is a huge step forward,” he said.

The Minister also said the Department have argued with the European Commission that commonage farmers should be able to apply for GLAS in their own right rather than organise collective agreement beforehand. He said the Department thinks this will be facilitated.

Furthermore, the Minister stated the Department examined the requirement that 50% of active farmers on a commonage would have to be involved in GLAS, but it is now trying to negotiate this as a guideline rather than a requirement.

Minister Coveney also said today, that if farmers cannot agree on a planner to put in place a collective GLAS commonage plan, as some farmers believe will be the case, the Department will appoint a planner from a list of approved people.

“We are addressing all of the issues, including the matter of 50% agreement on GLAS, the possibility of applying on an individual basis, the seeking of extra time to allow commonage farmers access and the appointment of planners to put collective GLAS commonage plans in place,” the Minister said.

He added that the Department are making progress with the Commission on all of these issues and we will get a conclusion that will allow for a practical solution for commonage farmers.

“We are listening to farmers and working with them to achieve an outcome that suits the Commission’s audit system, can be implemented on time by the Department and, most important, is workable for farmers in commonage and non-commonage areas.

“I am asking for a little time to get the deal done and achieve a reasonable outcome,” Minister Coveney said.