A UK company – ADAS Ltd – was recently awarded the contract to evaluate the GLAS scheme.

The total value of the contract has been published on the e-tenders website as €1,22m. The contract will extend over the life of the GLAS scheme with a final report expected in 2020.

Over the next five years, the Department of Agriculture, through its Rural Development Plan (RDP), will spend in excess of €1.4 billion on the GLAS scheme with up to 50,000 farmers set to participate in it.

It is understood that the agri consultancy company will carry out a study of the effectiveness of the Scheme on selected farms with a view to assessing the schemes effectiveness.

The understanding gained is to be used in informing the development of the next RDP. All of the principal measures within the scheme will be assessed but the greatest priority is to be given to Farmland Habitats, Farmland Birds and Commonages in that order.

Was it worth it?

One of the criticisms of previous agri-environmental schemes is that there was no mechanism to identify if they met their objectives or not.

According to Galway-based Agricultural Consultant Fergal Monaghan, both of those schemes had plenty of compliance inspections, in both REPS and AEOS the Department were more than willing to dish out penalties for various forms of non-compliance, but no one ever asked was there any point to some of the prescriptions.

“Was there any benefit to the farmer or to the environment of the many restrictions in those schemes? Were they in many cases counterproductive?

“As regards commonages and farming in the uplands, did some of the requirements of past schemes, particularly in respect of cattle cause more harm than good?

“Did they have unintended consequences which contributed to the decline of stock numbers on commonages and uplands? Consequences which in hindsight, we can see are at centre of the land eligibility issues and wildfire issues that we face today.”

Monaghan says if the appointment of contractors to evaluate GLAS on an ongoing basis means that someone will be answering these questions, and that the understanding gained will feed into the design of the next RDP, then that is a very good thing.