Sys­tem glitch could delay GLAS pay­ments for 25pc of ap­pli­cants

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - LOUISE HO­GAN

THOU­SANDS of farm­ers could have GLAS pay­ments de­layed again this year be­cause of prob­lems with the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s on­line ap­pli­ca­tion sys­tem.

Dif­fi­cul­ties have been iden­ti­fied with up to 25pc of com­mon­ages, plan­ners in the west claim.

Com­mon­age man­age­ment plans (CMPs) must be drawn up by Oc­to­ber 31 if ap­pli­cants with share­hold­ings on th­ese lands are to qual­ify for GLAS pay­ments.

The Ir­ish Natura and Hill Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (INHFA) has called on the De­part­ment to ex­tend the Oc­to­ber 31 GLAS ap­pli­ca­tions dead­line as a re­sult of the on­go­ing prob­lems.

A num­ber of plan­ners who con­tacted the Farm­ing In­de­pen­dent claimed that some com­mon­ages were not listed on the on­line sys­tem, oth­ers had landown­ers’ names miss­ing, while some com­mon­ages could not be opened.

The De­part­ment has ad­mit­ted in a cir­cu­lar is­sued to plan­ners re­cently that com­mon­ages were miss­ing from the GLAS sys­tem.

“A very small num­ber of com­mon­ages re­main to be linked to the on­line sys­tem and are not yet avail­able. This work will be com­pleted shortly,” the De­part­ment stated.

De­spite this ad­mis­sion, the cir­cu­lar in­sisted that a CMP had to be sub­mit­ted for each com­mon­age be­fore 2017 pay­ments could be is­sued to GLAS par­tic­i­pants. In re­sponse to queries re­gard­ing com­mon­ages and GLAS ap­pli­ca­tions, the De­part­ment con­firmed that non-com­ple­tion of CMPs by Oc­to­ber 31 will re­sult in pay­ment de­lays.

“CMPs not sub­mit­ted by the dead­line of Oc­to­ber 31 will re­sult in de­layed pay­ment when the 2017 ad­vance pay­ments com­mence in Novem­ber,” the De­part­ment said.

The De­part­ment also in­sisted that the com­mon­age el­e­ment of the GLAS ap­pli­ca­tion sys­tem was work­ing well.

“The com­mon­age sys­tem is live and com­pleted CMPs are be­ing sub­mit­ted on a daily ba­sis,” the De­part­ment stated.

But this view has been chal­lenged by plan­ners and by the INHFA. Inishowen-based farm con­sul­tant Liam McKin­ney claimed that he had en­coun­tered dif­fi­cul­ties with up to 25pc of his com­mon­age ap­pli­cants.

“We have com­mon­ages that are not on the sys­tem, we have farm­ers’ names miss­ing off com­mon­ages who were in­cluded in in­terim plans last year, and we have com­mon­ages that can’t be opened,” Mr McKin­ney said.

Sim­i­lar dif­fi­cul­ties have been en­coun­tered by Peter Can­non, a plan­ner from Ar­dara, Co Done­gal.

He said the prob­lems have been very frus­trat­ing for plan­ners, and were ex­ac­er­bated by ad­vi­sors’ in­abil­ity to make con­tact with of­fi­cials in the De­part­ment’s GLAS sec­tion.

“We can’t make con­tact with peo­ple in the GLAS sec­tion, that’s the big­gest is­sue. If they at least told you to go ahead and work on a par­tic­u­lar com­mon­age it would be some­thing, but it is very frus­trat­ing when you can’t make con­tact,” Mr Can­non said.

The INHFA has de­scribed as “un­ac­cept­able” that the De­part­ment could pe­nalise farm­ers for late CMPs.

INHFA pres­i­dent Colm O’Don­nell said farm­ers were be­ing pe­nalised for some­thing that was “out­side their con­trol”.

Mr O’Don­nell said a pay­ment run which ex­cluded com­mon­age farm­ers would be “un­re­al­is­tic” given that the De­part­ment’s on­line sys­tem was “not fully func­tional”, and he called for the Oc­to­ber 31 dead­line for ap­pli­ca­tions to be ex­tended.

It is un­der­stood that plans need to be sub­mit­ted for around 3,800 com­mon­ages na­tion­ally, which are farmed by close to 9,000 share­hold­ers.

Over 6,000 farm­ers will not be paid their GLAS pay­ments as nu­tri­ent man­age­ment plans have not been sub­mit­ted by ad­vi­sors, new fig­ures have shown.

Min­is­ter of State An­drew Doyle said it was “sim­ply not pos­si­ble” for the De­part­ment to is­sue the pay­ments.

“6,000 ap­pli­cants have not met the re­quire­ments by not sub­mit­ting their nu­tri­ent man­age­ment plan. Over 30,000 ap­pli­cants have sub­mit­ted the plan and hence have re­ceived their bal­anc­ing pay­ment im­me­di­ately,” he said.

Over 99pc of 2016 ad­vance pay­ments have is­sued, with al­most €150m paid out un­der the scheme.

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