ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed the extension. He hopes the extra week will give enough time to the Department of Agriculture to clarify concerns raised by farmers, primarily relating to penalties for any early exit from the six-year contract, and to the quality targets for animals.
“The extension is a recognition that there hasn’t been enough time to fully explain the scheme and its possible ramifications to farmers,” said Mr Kent. “We are asking the minister to use this extra time to resolve all concerns which are preventing farmers from applying, particularly the six-year contract, issues around star-ratings and unannounced inspections.”
IFA president Eddie Downey said: “Over 70 members of the Oireachtas attended our briefing session and each of them recognised farmers’ genuine concerns relating to the inflexibility of the six-year rule and clawbacks, the 2014 reference year, young farmers, the 60% genomic testing, the replacement requirements, penalties and other issues. They must now ensure that the minister and his department act to address these concerns.”
Earlier this week, Mr Coveney tried to quell the concerns of farmers by clarifying that applicants will still be able to withdraw from this scheme after the date of application, if they feel it is not for them. Specifically, he noted that they can make a more informed decision on staying or leaving once their animals have completed tests with the ICBF, and when they can see where their own herds currently stand in relation to the genetic index.
“We’ve had almost 15,000 applicants for the programme,” said Mr Coveney. “The rate of application is increasing, and I want to give as many farmers as possible the opportunity to apply for this excellent scheme.”
He also underlined the flexibility for BDGP applicants who dispose of some or all of their land before the termination of the six-year contract term.
“The vast majority of farmers have more land than they need to attract the full payment, and no problem should arise from the sale or lease of some of their land. Where a farmer disposes of land by sale, lease, gift or inheritance, the transferee may take on obligations of the transferor. Alternatively these obligations may expire, with no clawback of funding. The commitments will not, of course, have expired where the participant retains sufficient land to fulfil his obligations under the programme.”