My Department is engaged in ongoing consultations with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in relation to the design of the new agri-environmental schemes under the terms of the Rural Development Programme. These new schemes will offer farmers the opportunity to undertake enhanced environmental actions to protect important habitats and species on agricultural land. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has primary responsibility for the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives and therefore the input of that Department is critical to the design of a successful suite of measures under the overall heading of GLAS (Green Low-carbon Agri-environment Scheme).
I announced details of the new GLAS and GLAS+ Scheme on 14 January 2014 as part of a suite of proposed measures under the new Rural Development Programme. The GLAS Scheme will provide significant funding to farmers who undertake environmental actions in line with national and EU environmental objectives. It will contribute to the overall public good and will build on the success of previous agri-environment schemes.
The entire Rural Development Programme must be submitted to the European Commission for approval. In advance of this my Department must undertake a public consultation, an ex ante evaluation, a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), a needs assessment, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and an appropriate assessment (AA), as part of the development of the Programme. An independent evaluator has been contracted to prepare the ex ante evaluation report, SEA and AA and to advise on the SWOT analysis. An initial round of consultation with stakeholders took place in 2013 and written submissions were received. On the basis of these, and taking account of the requirements of the Council Regulation, an outline of the GLAS Scheme was developed and published in the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 Draft Consultation Programme on 14 January, 2014, seeking submissions by 19 February, 2014. These submissions, in addition to ongoing consultation with stakeholders such as the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, will inform final decisions on measures to be included in the new GLAS and GLAS+ Scheme.