Following a series of meetings with Department officials, the Chairman of Tipperary ICMSA, Seamus Troy, said that the association is becoming increasingly concerned that the new GLAS scheme, designed as the replacement for REPS and AEOS, will not have the funding required to cater for the 30,000 farmers who have already left REPS or will have left by the end of 2014.
Mr Troy said that the agri-environment schemes are hugely important not only to the farm families in question and bio-diversity, but also the wider rural economy, and ICMSA is very clearly saying that all farmers who wish to join this scheme for 2015 should be accepted and certainly not be rejected due to the lack of funding.
“We expect that there will be considerable demand for this scheme and concern is beginning to grow at this stage that thousands of farmers who will apply at the end of this year to join this scheme – a process that involves paying a planner to draw up a plan - could find themselves rejected from the scheme as a result of a lack of funding and be told that they will have to wait until the end of 2015 to apply again, with the possibility that they will be rejected again due to a lack of funding. That kind of scenario is simply unacceptable and the Minister, at this stage, needs to spell out to farmers if a quota situation will apply for this scheme or whether all farmers who apply will be accepted into the scheme.”
The Tipperary ICMSA Chairman said that his association interpreted the Government’s commitment on GLAS as indicating that funding for up to 50,000 farmers would be provided with all applications to the scheme being considered from 2014 and not in stages between now and 2019 as now seems to be the suggestion.
“We need and are surely entitled to some upfront clarity on this. Why should anyone have to pay a planner to complete a plan, submit the plan, only to be then rejected from the scheme because the lack of funding meant that they never had a chance of being accepted into that stage of the scheme in the first place? Just last week many farmers received their SFP application and have seen - in print and for the very first time - the actual cuts facing them under the SFP scheme and with more to come. It is simply astonishing to expect them to have to pay a planner simply in the hope of gaining access to the new GLAS scheme. Money is very tight on many farms and farmers need some guarantees that if they’re going to hire a planner then there’s at least the budget that will cover their application. Nobody could think that this is an unreasonable request The Minister owes us a straight answer: either all farmers who apply at the end of this year will be accepted or the Department will be operating a quota system. The new GLAS was launched with much fanfare in January this year stating that up to €5,000 per annum would be payable to up to 50,000 farmers. We have to have it confirmed that this commitment will be delivered in 2015 and not trickled out in stages on a number quota basis up to 2019”, concluded the Thurles farmer.