Wednesday, 1 July 2015
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
30. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to change the terms and conditions associated with the commonage management plans under the green low-carbon agri-environmental scheme in view of the low number of plans prepared to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26055/15]
At the outset, I would like to say that I am delighted at the interest shown by farmers in joining GLAS, with nearly 27,000 applications received in the first tranche. I am also delighted to see the range of actions which have been selected. In fact, actions addressing every single objective set out under GLAS have been selected by farmers in this first tranche, including commonages. GLAS is clearly going to play a key role in the protection of our rural environment over the new programming period.
I would also like acknowledge the number of commonages which have come into GLAS in this first tranche. Applications in respect of almost 2,700 commonages, or well over half of all the commonages in the country, have been received. This is a major step towards the establishment of greatly enhanced management regimes for these upland areas. In all, some 4,000 commonage farmers have applied to join GLAS, with a similar number already managing commonages under AEOS. These AEOS commonage farmers are only likely to join GLAS when their AEOS contracts expire and I have made specific provision to accommodate these applications in due course.
I do not underestimate the challenge of preparing so many commonage management plans. This is a new approach, which seeks the proactive engagement of as many commonage shareholders as possible. My Department continues to review the preparation of these plans in consultation with the commonage advisors and has also discussed the issue with farming representatives. It is important that these plans are done to a high standard and I will give as much support as possible in this regard.