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Monday, May 18, 2015

Brief Glas rant.

When Joe McNamee asked if I would do a rant in the garden tent at the Ballymaloe Litfest, the first thing that sprung to mind was the new Glas scheme. This is the new environmental scheme brought in to replace the REPS (Rural Environmental Protection) Scheme. I have been in REPs for 20 years and I suppose the farm is the better for it, and I am certainly the richer, but it is confusing. In REPS we were paid to do things like take cattle in off the land in the winter to avoid poaching. As a result the rough dry ground where you would normally out-winter cattle got totally covered with briars and furze bushes.  In the past cattle would have picked over them in the winter and trampled them down and they would have been burned regularly.

Connor from Teagasc explaining to me and the heifers why we are dispensable to Irish agriculture.

Now, I don't agree with burning, but the regular burning of rough land in the past was better then the infernos we saw this spring when land that had not been burned for decades 'accidentally'  caught fire. After 20 years of REPS, it was decided that any land not growing grass was not eligible for area aid and inspectors with fantastically detailed areal photographs came around circling any brambles or other non grass on farms and many farmers were penalised for having bushes. I was greatly peeved to be penalised €800. However,  I am used to paying for my principles and did not resort to an afternoon with a box of matches. Others thought differently.

Back to the Glas scheme. I was excited to notice that there was quite a lot of money available for chough habitat, but it turned out that inspite of the fact that coughs roost all winter in my barn that I am not in a chough designated area and so I am not eligible for that.  (Anyway you can't get the chough money if you are in the OFS Organic Farming scheme.) Where is the logic there? It turns out you can't get the 'Low input permanent pasture' money either if you are in the OFS. So what can I get paid for? Laying hedges is one option. I planted a 180m hedge on the top of the farm in REPS 1 which is now ready to lay but it turns out boundry hedges are ineligible, and if I plant any more trees I will loose more area aid. Why?

So what am I left with? I can plant a hedge, so long as its not where an existing field boundry exists, and I can lay one short internal field boundry hedge. I can put up bee, bat, and bird boxes, and atha is about it. So it is another scheme only big farmers can get a signifiant payment for.

The good thing is I don't have to keep livestock anymore, which means I don't have to produce food anymore. I could just mow the place a couple of times a year, which would probably be cheaper than making silage, housing and fencing cattle, getting them tested, etc.

I has achieved objective 5.3. in me, but not in a good way.

  1. The objectives of the Schemes are:
    1. 5.1.  To encourage actions at farm level that promote biodiversity, protect water quality, and help combat climate change
    2. 5.2.  To contribute to positive environmental management of farmed Natura 2000 sites and river catchments in the implementation of the Birds Directive, Habitats Directive and Water Framework Directive.
    3. 5.3.  To promote and sustain attitudinal change amongst farmers
    4. 5.4.  To achieve a balanced and effective environmental programme over the period of the RDP.