Speaking today after a rally in Dublin organised by the IFA in opposition to the Minister for Agriculture’s refusal to engage with farmers over the concerns with the criteria for the new GLAS scheme, Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson Martin Ferris TD said:
“I have been approached by many of those involved in the farming community across the states who have expressed their concern over the criteria for inclusion in the proposed GLAS scheme.
“The scheme, which has been designed to replace AEOS and REPS under the new Rural Development plan, is anticipated to have up to 50,000 applications with a maximum payment of €5,000 per farm. This represents a significant reduction in farming income from those on REPS who may have received up to €10,000 per farm.
“Under the proposal for the new scheme favourable treatment will be given to farmers who use over 140kg per ha nitrogen and who farm over 30ha tillage. Many small farmers feel that these criteria favour larger farms and will mean that many smaller farmers will be precluded from the scheme.
“Favourable treatment in the form of Tier 1 access to the uplands conservation element of the scheme will be given to commonage farmers who secure 80% of the agreement of farmers, form a grazing association and apply as a collective. Those who cannot satisfy these criteria will only be considered after Tier 1 applications have been fulfilled.
“Many small hill farmers reluctantly supported the CAP deal in the belief that an appropriate scheme would be developed under the Rural Development Plan to cater for those on marginal land and many are angry that this now appears not to be the case.
“In light of the recent Teagasc survey on Farm Incomes for 2013, which shows that the average farm income for sheep farmers has fallen by a dramatic 39% with those in the border and west coming out on the bottom of the table, it is clear that immediate action must be taken to ensure the viability of hill farming, given the dependence by many in this sector on direct payments in order to supplement their income.
“It is clear that the Minister has not developed a scheme which adequately protects smaller farmers and the overly burdensome criteria for inclusion on the GLAS scheme must be amended to secure the future viability of smaller farms. This is key to the sustainability and development of rural Ireland.
“We are calling on the Minister to immediately engage with the farming community in order to address these concerns before the proposal for the scheme is sent to Brussels at the end of this month. “