GLAS scheme to be the "new REPS" for 50,000 Irish farmers
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney have today announced details of the new rural development package.

Click here for full analysis of the Glas scheme by the Irish Farmers Journal.

A new agri environment scheme called GLAS and 60% grant aid to young farmers for farm buildings are two headline elements of the new rural development programme announced today by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

The new GLAS (green, low carbon agri-environment scheme) provides for a maximum payment of €5,000 for up to 50,000 farmers, and a further payment of up to €2,000 for a limited number of farmers "who take on particularly challenging actions". Farmers will also welcome the news that annual Disadvantaged Area Payments of €195m are also protected.

At a press briefing shared with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney announced the allocation of more than €12.5 billion in Common Agricultural Policy and exchequer funding to the agriculture sector in the period to 2020.

Minister Coveney said: “In addition to the €8.5 billion in EU funding that will be paid in direct payments to farmers in the period up to 2020, I am delighted to announce that €1.9 billion in national funding will be added to the €2.2 billion EU funding already secured for expenditure on rural development."

Direct Payments

The Minister announced that he has decided that Ireland should implement the so-called ‘partial convergence’ model. Under this approach, payments will move part of the way towards a national average rather than to the uniform payment also provided for under the CAP reform agreement. By opting for this approach, he is ensuring that the direct payments system is made fairer and more equitable while at the same time ensuring that the level of redistribution of payments between farmers is not of a scale that could jeopardise the achievement of the Food Harvest 2020 objectives.

The Minister said: “During the CAP reform negotiations I argued very strongly for Member States to be given the flexibility to tailor the reform outcome to their own farming circumstances. I am delighted now to be able to take what I believe to be full advantage of this flexibility. There will be significant transfers given that all entitlements must be valued at 60% of the national average entitlement value by 2019. However, I think I have struck the right balance between making the system fairer and supporting the sustainable development of the sector.”

Young farmers

The Minister also highlighted efforts to encourage the participation of young farmers in agriculture. He has decided to use the provisions of the CAP reform agreement as follows:

• the full 2% of the national ceiling will be allocated to young farmers, providing for a 25% ‘top-up’ on direct payments on up to 50 hectares for farmers under 40 years of age (worth more than €16,000 over the period where payment is made on the maximum area for the full five years of the scheme),

These direct payments measures will be complemented by further support under the Rural Development Programme, where a separate strand of the support for on-farm capital investment will be ring-fenced for young farmers at a higher rate of aid intensity of 60%.

The Minister emphasised that the priority in deciding how the Rural Development Programme would be structured was the need to ensure an effective contribution to the achievement of the Food Harvest 2020 objectives in a way that would complement the direct payments regime. He was pleased to be able to confirm the available funding of €1.9 billion at this point, which has allowed him to give an outline of the proposed new measures to be included in the Programme. These will be discussed in further detail with the stakeholders over the coming weeks before the Programme is submitted to the Commission for approval.

The Minister referred in more detail to the main areas to be targeted (in addition to young farmers as mentioned previously):

• a substantial new agri-environment/climate scheme (GLAS), which will build on the progress made under REPS and AEOS. This will provide for a maximum payment of €5,000 for up to 50,000 farmers, and a further payment of up to €2,000 for a limited number of farmers who take on particularly challenging actions,

• continued strong support for disadvantaged areas (now Areas of Natural Constraint), to the tune of about €195 million per year,

• incentives for on-farm capital investment, including support for the expansion of the dairy sector following the abolition of milk quotas in 2015,

• a new beef data and genomics measure worth up to €52 million per year aimed at improving the genetic quality of the beef herd.

SECTORAL IMPACTS

Beef

While there will be a dividend for beef production arising from dairy expansion, the Minister said that “it is critically important to recognise the specialist beef breeding sector as the seed bed for Ireland’s high quality indigenous beef industry. Public support for this vital sector must focus on increasing the value of its contribution to the economy, but also on addressing the key vulnerability of relatively poor efficiency and profitability at farm level.” This will be achieved through a combination of building on existing supports and adopting a more strategic approach, as exemplified by the following:

• the new beef data and genomics scheme (payment of €80 per calf),

• knowledge transfer measures that will improve key skills needed at farm level,

• the GLAS environmental scheme, payments for farmers in Areas of Natural Constraint and measures to encourage collaborative farming, which will especially benefit suckler farmers,

• the targeted advisory measure on animal health and welfare, and

• beef quality schemes to assist marketing of local products through EU programmes.

Dairy

The Minister said that “with milk quotas to be abolished in 2015, significant investment will be required at farm level to manage the additional milk volumes targeted in Food Harvest 2020.” The Rural Development Programme will therefore support the sector through the following measures:

• support for capital investment for dairy equipment, including targeted support for young farmers setting up for the first time, will be a priority in the initial phase,

• knowledge transfer measures will be prioritised for dairy expanders and new entrants,

• targeted advisory service on animal health and welfare,

• support to partly offset the start up costs of approved collaborative farming arrangements.

Sheep

The Minister highlighted the following:

• the €13 million Grassland Sheep Scheme is subsumed into the baseline Single Farm Payments figure for sheep farmers,

• knowledge transfer measures will help to improve efficiency and profitability in sheep production,

• the targeted advisory measure on animal health and welfare, support for collaborative farming arrangements and lamb quality schemes,

• the new GLAS environmental scheme and payments for farmers in Areas of Natural Constraint, will be of substantial benefit to sheep farmers,

• sheep farmers in particular will benefit from the redistribution of direct payments.

Pigs and Poultry

• Capital investment support will continue to be made available under the new Programme, subject to the phasing decisions made following the forthcoming consultations with stakeholders.

Arable

• Investment support will be made available for slurry storage on cereals farms.

• A new incentivised support programme for the protein sector will be introduced.

Artisan/Food SMEs

• A new Artisan Food Cooperation Scheme, comprised of annual grant support to help artisan food producers to improve and validate production quality, and improve the awareness and marketability of local and niche category products.

Reaction

IFA President Eddie Downey said the seven-year investment, along with the CAP Pillar I Single Farm Payment, will allow agriculture to deliver jobs and export growth as part of the economic recovery and will help to meet the targets in Food Harvest 2020. On an annual basis, EU funding for the Single Farm Payment amounts to €1.2bn, and €313m for the Rural Development Programme. In addition, national funding will amount to about €270m per annum, which allows for a full drawdown of maximum funding.

Full details and analysis of the package of measures will be in this week's edition of the Irish Farmers Journal.

Tánaiste open to more time for Brexit
The Tánaiste Simon Coveney has stated that theEU is willing to extend the transition period after the UK leaves the EU ahead of this week's leaders summit in Brussels.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has told the Irish Farmers Journal that the EU is willing to extend the transition period after the UK leaves the EU.

This would allow more time for negotiations on future trading relationships between the EU and UK, and possibly avoid implementation of the backstop agreed last December. The UK's wish for a time limit on the backstop was described as a “new ask” by the Tánaiste .

Coveney added that it is imperative that Northern Ireland remains in regulatory alignment with the EU to protect the all-island economy.

The EU will release contingency plans next week explaining the implications of a no-deal Brexit in three areas: aviation, food standards and citizen’s rights.

'No back-sliding' – IFA

IFA president Joe Healy urged EU leaders to ensure there is no back-sliding on the backstop and no time limit, thereby guaranteeing that a hard border will not return at any point.

While the IFA says Irish farmers' interests lie in in maintaining full access and frictionless trade Ireland and Britain, the UK government intends to leave the single market and customs union and conduct its own trade policy.

This would open the door to Britain directly competing with the EU in future trade deals, undercutting EU import tariffs and granting additional import quotas, for example to the US, Mercosur, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc. That would be totally unacceptable – Joe Healy

The IFA has also raised concerns that the UK is aiming to avoid compliance with EU regulations and standards on marketing, labelling, GMOs, pesticides, geographic indications, food fraud and other CAP requirements.

With the outcome of talks uncertain, Healy has called for both a direct aid scheme for farmers to compensate potential devaluation of sterling, and a special fund to offset the negative impacts of Brexit. The size of the fund should be flexible, in order to adapt to a soft or hard Brexit as needed, he added.

Make K application a priority after extra silage cuts – Teagasc
Speaking at the Teagasc national soil fertility conference, Mark Plunkett advised farmers to apply K in fields where two or three silages cuts had been taken.

As favourable conditions allowed for additional late cuts of silage, farmers attending the Teagasc soil fertility conference were advised to apply K to those fields.

Speaking at the event, Mark Plunkett, Teagasc soil and plant nutrition specialist said autumn was a good time to apply both K and lime especially where extra grass cuts were taken. He added that by doing so farmers could reduce the likelihood of grass tetany issues and N loss in spring.

He said: “Intensively cut grass silage removes significant quantities of nutrients at harvest time and may reduce soil fertility. Now is a good time to review soil test results and develop a fertiliser plan in time for the year ahead.”

Also speaking at the conference, Dr John Spink said the management of soil fertility levels should be a priority for every dairy and drystock farmer. Dr Spink who is head of the crops environment and land-use programme at Teagasc encouraged all farmers to follow the five steps for effective soil fertility management.

These five steps include; soil testing, soil pH and lime, targeting index 3 for P and K, using slurry and manure and achieving a nutrient balance.

Dr David Wall of Teagasc said that while fertiliser inputs represented a significant cost they are necessary to drive high grass, milk and meat outputs.

He said: “Getting the basics correct by applying lime, maximising slurry and manure nutrient resources and selecting the right fertiliser product, and applying it at the right rate and right time will go a long way to improving production, profitability and sustainability on grassland farms.”

Full conference report in tomorrow’s Irish Farmers Journal

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Two arrested over stolen vehicles parts
Gardaí in Meath have arrested two men in connection with an investigation into stolen vehicle parts.

Two men have been arrested by Gardaí in Meath as part of an investigation into stolen vehicles parts. The arrests were made after Gardaí recovered a large amount of suspected stolen vehicle parts from a number of premises in Meath and Kildare.

The men, aged 34 and 24, were arrested and detained in Trim station. They were due expected to appear before Trim District Court today.

The operation involved the Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation Unit, Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigations supported by the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and local based Gardaí.

Further arrests

Earleir this week, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) raided a suspected hiding place for stolen vehicles and arrested four men in Mayobridge, Co Down.

Police said four men aged 59, 51, 40 and 37 were arrested at the scene on suspicion of handling property believed to have been stolen in the Republic of Ireland.