Hill farmers are in limbo over stock levels on commonage, insists IFA

Farmers in commonage areas are being left in limbo as they do not know what stocking levels they have to work towards in order to qualify for payments under various schemes, the IFA claimed yesterday.

Speaking ahead of a meeting in Tuam, Co Galway, last night, IFA Hill Committee chairman Pat Dunne said this issue, combined with the serious practicalities of the implementation of the proposed 50% commonage agreement, is leading to much anger among hill farmers.

He called on Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to get the Commonage Implementation Group up and working without delay as farmers are in the dark about their position in the run-up to the implementation of the new CAP for both Pillar I and Pillar II in 2015.

Mr Dunne called on Minister Coveney to organise a series of Department meetings around the country to outline his plans for commonages,

Fianna Fáil spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív earlier claimed that some commonage farmers may not be eligible for the Single Farm Payment from 2015 due to new regulations being imposed,

However, Minister Coveney told him in a written reply to a Dáil question, that In the case of the treatment of commonage lands under the 2014 Direct Payment Schemes, the situation remains unchanged.

“Any eligibility inspections undertaken by my department under the Direct Payment Schemes, which involve applicants, who declared commonage lands, will include an assessment of the declared commonages,” he said.

The minister explained that commonage lands form an important part of the farming enterprises of many farmers, in addition to being crucial from the point of view of bio-diversity, wildlife, amenities and tourism.

However, there is a growing risk of land abandonment on commonages as under-grazing becomes more of a problem.

The assessment being undertaken by his department will establish the area eligible for payment in the commonage, the minister said.

His department will be writing to all commonage claimants setting out the minimum and maximum stocking density for the commonage.

This will be as assessed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in conjunction with his department.

The claimants will have the right, if they consider that the figures provided would not meet the requirements of their commonage, to submit an assessment by a professional planner providing alternative figures.

Minister Coveney said in order to assist this process he had established the Commonage Implementation Committee last week with Joe Healy as Chairman.


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