13th June, 2013
President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, Gabriel Gilmartin, has assured Mayo commonage farmers that ICSA will continue to work hard to ensure a practical, flexible approach is taken to the reform of commonage management.
ICSA sees a definite need for an overhaul of the current system. However, the Department of Agriculture’s draft proposals for a new management framework have been sharply criticised by ICSA as being too prescriptive and not reflective of the reality on the ground. Mr Gilmartin said, “We have a number of issues with the proposals as published by the Department. There is an overall lack of flexibility in the proposals, which do not take into account the hugely varied types of commonages and management practices currently applied. We have a real concern over the possibility of penalties being applied to farmers – who complied with the rules – as a result of the failure of one or more other shareholders to comply. As well as that, the proposals as they stand simply do not adequately address the complex issue of dormant shares in commonages nor do they take into account the capacity of individual shareholders to increase their stocking rates to meet new requirements.”
Given these concerns, ICSA welcomed the fact that the Department held back from sending out letters to individual stakeholders outlining their proposals; but Mr Gilmartin says the process of overhauling commonage management must continue, on a more consultative, ‘bottom-up’ basis. “This is particularly important in a county like Mayo, which has the highest percentage of eligible land in commonage at 29.5 per cent. What ICSA is working to deliver for the farmers of Mayo is a system that incentivises commonage shareholders to re-stock and work co-operatively, and does not penalise farmers for the actions of others; provides for flexibility in how different types of commonages are managed; and is comprehensively backed up by a well-resourced advisory and communication support system.”