Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Éamon Ó Cuív TD has accused Minster Simon Coveney of hiding behind his ministerial desk and refusing to be up-front on completed applications for the new GLAS scheme.
Deputy O' Cuív said that GLAS (Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment ) is the new much heralded agri-environment scheme the Government plans to introduce under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. However, there has been considerable confusion among farmers applying to GLAS, especially when compared to the old REPS scheme.
“Farmers always knew where they stood with REPS – this is not the case with GLAS. In a reply to my most recent parliamentary question to provide a county by county breakdown, Minister Coveney once again refused to give the number of completed GLAS applications. Instead, he has quoted the total number of applications, which currently stand at 15,037. It is time that the Minister told us how many completed applications have been received and the average amount of money being sought by these applicants.
Dep O Cuiv said that it seems the Minister is in deep denial if he thinks that the targeted 30,000 applications will be completed by May 22nd. Combined with this, Minister Coveney is placing Irish farmers in a very precarious financial position as only completed applications submitted by this deadline are being considered for approval.
“To compound this further, he refuses to guarantee to pay all eligible participants in 2015. This is disgraceful and is a further insult to farmers who are already struggling with high costs and low prices.
He said that the crisis is heightened by the plight of commonage farmers applying to GLAS. Such farmers have till the July 3 to submit Commonage Management Plans.
“However, it is bordering on farce that no such planners have been approved by the Department to complete these Plans.
“To add to the raft of barriers that farmers are already facing in accessing GLAS, the Minister has now confirmed land which has any heather present will be disqualified from the “low input permanent pasture” grade within the scheme. This is not fair and is very disproportionate in its coverage.
He concluded by saying that it is abundantly clear that the online GLAS system is not fit for purpose.
“The Minister should immediately announce that all eligible applications for GLAS this year will be approved and allowed to start once examined, thus ensuring that farmers would get a significant GLAS payment for 2015”.