MEP Luke Ming Flanagan has spoken out about the inability of Irelands farmers to draw down CAP funding due to land being deemed ‘ineligible’ due to under-grazing and conflicting advice on complying with regulations.
The MEP facilitated a meeting with the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association, (INHFA) with officials from DG AGRI and DG ENV to express their outrage at the handling of the affair last week.
The current scenario stems from the decision of the Dept in the late nineties to impose a blanket destocking on all commonages as a result of overgrazing on some mountain areas. This was a blunt instrument where a targeted response was required as stock were removed from mountains where no problem existed. This was followed up by the implementation of “Commonage Framework Plans” which set maximum stocking rates for these areas.
The MEP has stated that this was; ‘compounded by the failure to honour and follow up on commitments given at the time to review and revise stocking rates to reflect the changing status of the vegetation. As a result of the inaction by the Dept mountain lands have been restricted with completely inappropriate stocking rates to control the vegetation. ‘
He added farmers were now being penalised for under grazing.
This policy vacuum and lack of leadership has continued into the implementation of the GLAS scheme where the Dept has once again abdicated its responsibilities to upland farmers. The landowners put forward proposals where the Dept would commission “master plans” for overall commonage areas which would set out what is required of farmers to comply with regulation. These were to be drafted by ecologists with experience in this area, planners would then work of this in drawing up individual plans for their client farmers, working towards a common goal.
The great paradox of this concluded MEP Flanagan that while one set of farmers were being penalised for not complying with “greening” which requires then to devote 5% of their land to ecological focus areas another sector is being put to the wall for having to many ecological areas. He called on the Government to work with the landowners to implement a long term strategy to maximise the potential of these environmentally sensitive areas.