A total of 6,629 farmers opted out of the Government’s Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) this year, it has emerged.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue confirmed the drop-off in participation in response to questions from independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice at last week’s Oireachtas Agriculture Committee meeting, which focused on revised estimates for Department expenditure this year.
The latest GLAS data shows that while 42,000 farmers applied to extend their contract under the scheme for 2021 - this marks a substantial decline from 48,629 applicants in 2020.
When pressed on the reasons behind this fall-off by the Roscommon-Galway representative, Minister McConalogue said: "I provided for GLAS to be continued for this year for the transition period and it has had full participation levels up to that. Some farmers decided not to extend their GLAS by one year and that accounts for the 6,000 farmers less - they chose not to renew it for this year.
"Obviously, the opportunity was there and I worked to ensure that the extension would be practical and hassle free for farmers to continue to participate in GLAS, but having said that we did see about 6,000 decide not to continue on.”
Deputy Fitzmaurice challenged the minister on this response: “It’s very unfair to say that farmers basically ‘didn’t bother themselves’. The reality is, the way the schemes are set up - and GLAS especially - it has made it not worth their while.
"I know a lot of farmers who, because they didn’t get priority access and the five or six year lease was up on the land with their main GLAS project, some of the payments coming back for around €1,500 wasn’t worth filling out the application. That’s why we have lost 6,000 farmers and that’s less money in the economy."
The GLAS scheme is structured to give priority to farmers with vulnerable lands, for example areas that include sensitive landscapes, water areas or are the habitat of specific wild birds.
Specific payment rates depend on land and actions taken, but in general the maximum payment is €5,000/year.
Farmers who had entered contracts under Tranches 1 and 2 of the scheme, which were due to expire on December 31 2020, could apply to extend their contracts for one additional year.
Source – The Irish Independent