Efforts were made yesterday to break the “logjam” that has developed where a “substantial” number of Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) commonage farmers have yet to be paid their final 15% installment for 2017.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) National Hill Farming Committee chairman, Flor McCarthy, led a delegation to meet Department of Agriculture officials on the matter.

Currently, around 9,000 commonage farmers are in GLAS on up to 4,000 commonages.

So far, however, just 1,490 plans – representing 40% – have been finalised, meaning that up to 6,000 farmers are still awaiting payment worth around €4 million.

McCarthy told the department officials that difficulties have arisen as many of the Teagasc / Farm Relief Services (FRS) planners who commenced the interim plans last year are no longer engaged in GLAS plans.

Teagasc, which is the body that contracted FRS to do GLAS plans, has to make the necessary services available so that their clients are not left high and dry.

He added that in the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020; hill farmers must have a better environmental scheme than the current GLAS scheme available to them.

In addition, a lot of hill land is designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Areas (SPA) and this must be catered for with a meaningful support scheme that recognises the restrictions imposed, according to the IFA.

He said a new environmental scheme is necessary with an increased maximum payment from the current level of €5,000 to €10,000 with additional payments to farmers with designated land.

In relation to the situation on GLAS payments, the department informed the IFA delegation that another major reason for non-payment is outstanding GLAS Nutrient Management Plans, and farmers not having completed the required training course.