The Steering Committee of the Hill and Commonage Farmers for Action Group have written an open letter to Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney.
The letter reads as follows:
“Dear Mr Coveney,
We are writing to you at this time to clarify recent events and to outline our current position regarding to the current proposals for GLAS for hill and commonage farmers.
In September we organised public meetings on the western seaboard to highlight the flaws in the proposed schemes. We were astounded by the turnout of concerned farmers and this motivated us to start up a campaign to fight for a fair environmental scheme for farmers. A picket was placed on Enda Kenny’s office as a first step. As a result of our campaign we were invited to meet the commonage implementation committee which you set up as a forum to resolve issues for farmers on the commonages. As a result of consultation with the committee a compromise was reached which we felt was a big step forward in resolving the main issues we had identified. Responding to a parliamentary question from Deputy Brendan Griffin you put it on record that our concerns were legitimate and that a compromise had been reached.
You can imagine our shock and disbelief when some of our members attended the Department of Agriculture meetings where it became very clear that the Department had totally ignored the agreement we had reached. When challenged at the meetings it was claimed that no agreement had been reached. When contacted, the implementation committee said they only had the power to make a recommendation to the department of Agriculture. It is disquieting to think that the Department of Agriculture have their own agenda which they are working to, irrespective of farmers views.
At this juncture we feel we have no option but to deal with you, the minister, directly to resolve this issue. Any further delays are unacceptable as it will be January 2017 at the earliest before farmers will receive a full years payment from GLAS.
Our needs are very simple. Firstly we need to be allowed to enter GLAS as an individual farmer, the same as any other farmer in Ireland. Secondly the Commonage Management Plan needs to be instigated, managed and paid for by the Department of Agriculture so that commonage farmers only have to pay for one plan , the same as every other farmer. Access into GLAS should not be delayed until the completion of these plans. All other issues relating to the mechanics and time frame for plans can be dealt with.
We now ask for a face to face meeting with you at your earliest convenience to come up with a workable scheme which farmers will participate in, and take ownership of, for the good of all living in and visiting our rural communities. We have viable options to bring to the table that will meet our obligations for European legislation and that all farmers will buy into.
If there is a failure to engage in meaningful dialog to ensure the survival of our rural agricultural communities our next action will be the withdrawal of our goodwill allowing access to hills, Commonages , and walkways.
We do not want to do this and we feel if reason prevails it should not be necessary. All we want is a scheme which we have input into and that reflects the reality of farming in very difficult conditions and in very sensitive environmental areas.
We look forward to hearing from you in the very near future.
On behalf of Hill and Commonage Farmers.”