A total of 80 farmers appealed decisions made by the Department of Agriculture regarding their participation in the Green Low-Emission Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) to the Agriculture Appeals Office in 2021.
Approximately 110 cases were closed by the office, which includes some appeals made in previous years, with 27 appeals allowed in favour of the farmer in full or in part.
Some 24 of the decisions saw the Department revise its decision on farmers’ participation or payments and a further 36 appeals were disallowed by the appeals office.
Further appeals were found to have been not appropriate for the office to deal with or were withdrawn by the farmers who made them.
GLAS wild bird cover on rented land
One farmer appealed a decision by the Department to reject him from his GLAS 3 contract after they notified the Department that leased ground on which they were undertaking GLAS actions would no longer be rented to them by the landowner.
Wild bird cover was one of these actions being carried out on the land that was to be lost to the farmer.
The Department was set to discontinue the farmer's contract to remain in GLAS and recoup monies paid out for actions taken up to the farmer’s change in circumstances.
The decision to recoup monies paid out in previous years of participation for the wild bird cover was upheld on the basis that any measures signed up to under the five-year contract must be delivered for the entire period committed to, whether on owned or rented land.
However, the farmer’s rejection from the scheme was overturned after the farmer argued that the financial penalty incurred by this loss of income would be too great and the appeals officer found that maintaining the wild cover was “not in fact an eligibility criterion of the scheme, but instead a commitment”.
This represented a partial allowance of the appeal, as the farmer faced no recoupment of monies for the non-wild bird cover actions carried out in their GLAS plan and they were allowed to keep receiving payment for these actions.
Fencing watercourses appeal upheld
Another case adjudicated by the appeals office in 2021 saw a farmer facing a full clawback of the monies paid to them for the fencing off watercourses actions in GLAS.
The Department had learned that the farmer had taken GLAS lands out of the watercourse fencing action after selling the parcel to Iarnród Éireann to allow it to close a level crossing.
The farmer successfully argued that by selling land closed off from access by the shutting of the railway crossing, he had acted in the interests of his own and the public’s safety.
The appeals officer allowed the farmer to keep the monies they had been paid to stockproof the watercourses and keep his contract for the other actions undertaken in GLAS.