Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) president Colm O’Donnell has outlined the concerns the organisation has in regards to the Agri-Environment Climate Measure Scheme (AECM) in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) draft proposals.
He stressed that he did not want to see a repeat of GLAS, where some farmers on private hills and lowland high nature value farmers were excluded from payments despite delivering in terms of environmental output.
O’Donnell said that farmers must be the top priority in the designing of any new scheme.
“This is a full redrafting of the proposed suckler scheme and the delivery of a fairer CAP through full convergence and a front-loaded payment," O'Donnell added.
“Farmers that are currently delivering an environmental outcome must get access and be rewarded accordingly.”
With regard to commonage farmers, O’Donnell was adamant that “these farmers must get access to the new AECM and be dealt with on an individual basis”.
There appears to be a significant change in how these schemes will operate
“Through our assessment of the proposed AECM, there appears to be a significant change in how these schemes will operate, with the focus now on the delivery of results as opposed to previous agri-environmental schemes that focused on actions,” O'Donnell said.
"In a results-based model, there will be a much higher management requirement, as illustrated through the various EIPs and locally led projects," he added.
“In these projects, a major part of this management is assessing the individual contribution from farmers.”
“With potentially 60,000 participants in the new AECM, there is a genuine concern that a high percentage of the budget could be spent on administration, with planners and advisers having to continually assess if farmers are delivering the results expected,” he said.
O’Donnell stressed: “This increased budget must be directed towards farmers and not lost through excessive administration.
“When we consider how the planning and administration costs for GLAS are currently running at approximately 5% there is a danger that even with an increased budget, farmers could end up doing a lot more for considerably less.”
He also outlined the need for a much improved budget to accommodate additional farmers and deliver a higher payment.
O’Donnell made these comments following a meeting the INHFA held with the ministerial team of Charlie McConalogue, Pippa Hackett and Martin Heydon.