SIR – Is there any accountability within the Department of Agriculture, from the Minister down through his officials, in respect of the shambolic debacle that is the implementation of the GLAS scheme?
Is it time for an independent review, of the manner in which this scheme has been introduced and implemented? It cannot be allowed to become the norm that this level of inefficiency is tolerated, accepting lame excuses and weasel words in place of delivery of payments within a reasonable timeframe.
Any quick trawl of farming websites and blogs will reveal the litany of broken promises and missed deadlines in respect of payment dates which underlines the indifferent attitude of department personnel to the farmer, secure in the knowledge that there will be no repercussion for them irrespective of their performance.
The Green Low carbon Agri-environment Scheme (GLAS), is the primary scheme in Ireland’s RDP 2013-2020 for protecting and enhancing the environment, announced with great fanfare by the Minister for Agriculture at the time, Simon Coveney, in 2014. Three years on still no farmer has received a full year’s payment.
What has been paid out amounts to 85% of an annual payment, and some have still not received any payment, which begs the questions: Should farmers at this stage be paid interest on monies owed to them? Is this money that should have been paid out months ago earning interest for the government somewhere and therefore incentivising the delay in paying it out?
Regarding the scheme itself, it has been bogged down by poor decision-making from the start due to the overly complicated structure within it. This was highlighted by farmers at an early stage, particularly for farmers working High Nature Value (HNV) land, however the Department persisted in implementing this complex scheme, refusing to take farmers concerns on board.
This has resulted in long payment delays leading to severe cash flow difficulties for farmers, who, in complying with the scheme and carrying out the required actions, incurred substantial costs.
This in turn can have a significant knock effect for farmers some of which are being contacted by banks and financial institutions looking for payments on loans that are now in arrears due to the delay in payments. This can affect a farmer’s credit rating and undermine their ability to borrow for investments in the future.
It is unacceptable and grossly unfair that all the onus is on the farmers to comply with regulation and application dates, etc, while there appears to be a complete lack of accountability, transparency, and delivery on the other side of the equation.
Unfortunately, this appears to be the Ireland of today.