Commonages make up approximately 422,000 hectares of the land area in Ireland, of which over 230,000 hectares is supported under GLAS. The aim of the Commonage action within GLAS is to ensure that commonage lands are appropriately grazed and managed and are compliant with eligibility criteria. The scheme requires that management plans are put into place in order to achieve this.
The Spring of 2017 was characterised by a spell of dry weather. It was apparent during the closed season for burning that there was widespread burning of growing vegetation. There were several high-profile fires such as in Killery, which impacted on the lands concerned and the local and wider environment.
The Department, in the administration of the Basic Payment Scheme, contacted 33 farmers in relation to ineligible land due to burning on Killery mountain. 29 of these farmers lodged appeals with my Department on this issue. Where the applicant provided appropriate evidence that he/she was not involved in the burning of the affected lands, the administrative penalty was waived – however, the burnt land remained ineligible for payment.
Of the 29 cases that appealed, some 13 farmers submitted a further appeal to the Independent Agriculture Appeals office. Oral hearings were held between October 2018 and February 2019. No decision has been received to date on these appeals.
As per GLAS terms and conditions, farmers admitted to the scheme must submit a payment claim annually within the deadline for the submission of Basic Payment Scheme applications. For the purposes of GLAS, the annual payment claim forms part of the annual Basic Payment Scheme application. In these cases, as the claims have been reduced on the Basic Payment application, the GLAS payment is reduced in turn. As GLAS is a multi-annual scheme, this lower reference is retained for the duration of the GLAS contract. When the position regarding the Basic Payment Scheme is finalised, a decision can then be taken as to their GLAS scheme payments.