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19 October 2017 - Update On GLAS Payments

[check against delivery] I thank Deputy Kenny for raising this matter which gives me the opportunity to outline the up to date position regarding the 2016 payments under the Green, Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS).

The GLAS scheme is the most heavily subscribed scheme ever run under a Rural Development Programme in Ireland. The original target of 50,000 participants has been well surpassed such is the popularity of the scheme. GLAS has a maximum annual payment of €5,000 under the general scheme with provision for payment up to €7,000 (known as GLAS+) where the farmer is required to give exceptional environmental commitments in a limited number of cases.

 GLAS, like previous agri-environment schemes provide valuable support to participants who deliver public goods and environmental benefits that enhance Ireland's agriculture sustainability credentials. The scheme delivers overarching benefits to the rural environment and also addressed the issues of the mitigation of the impacts of climate change, the improvement of water quality and the enhancement of biodiversity. The scheme supports participants in improving their agricultural productivity and practices in a sustainable manner. 

Applications under the first two tranches of the GLAS scheme resulted in almost 38,000 farmers being approved into the scheme in its first year of implementation.  This represented an unprecedented level of participation in the first year of an agri-environment scheme in Ireland. A further 13,500 participants have been approved under GLAS 3.

2016 represents the first full year of payment under GLAS. Just to be very clear, only GLAS tranche 1 and 2 participants are eligible for a payment in respect of 2016.

The scheme is co-funded by the National Exchequer and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. As required under EU regulation two payments issue in respect of each year – the advance payment followed at a later stage by the balancing payment.  In 2016 and again in 2017 the advance payment represents 85% of the annual payment with a balancing payment being 15%.

2016 advance payments commenced in December 2016 and continued to be made on an ongoing basis as cases were cleared. Over 99% of 2016 advance payments have now issued and to date this year we have paid out almost €150m under the scheme.

In the majority of the remaining cases, applicants have been advised on a number of occasions of the steps they must take before the Department can process their payment. In most cases this relates to outstanding documentation which they must submit. As soon as this is received and assuming everything is in order, my Department will move immediately to make the payment.

After the advance payment, the remaining 15% is paid out at a later stage and this is known as the balancing payment. The 2016 balancing payments commenced on schedule during the summer and are also issuing on an ongoing basis. We have been paying out almost €1m per week in payments since these payments have commenced and this week expect to pay out almost €1.2m.

The main issue with these payments is the need for Advisors to submit a farm Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) to the dedicated online system. A plan must be submitted on behalf of each GLAS 1 and 2 participant before 2016 balancing payments and any future GLAS payments, including 2017 advance payments, can issue. Plans have now been submitted on behalf of over 80% of GLAS 1 and 2 participants. Just over 6,000 NMPs remain outstanding.

This specific figure of 6,000 is what is raised here today raised by the Deputy. Let me reiterate, these are not delayed payments as has been suggested. It is simply not possible for my Department to make these payments because the 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.

The completion of a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) is one of the four core actions under the GLAS scheme for all participants. The NMP was made one of the core actions due to the significant economic and environmental benefits an NMP has for a farmer in determining how best to manage their holding.

The requirement to submit a plan is clearly set out in the Terms and Conditions of the scheme when first published in October 2015. Also set out were the implications for not submitting the plan which is that no further GLAS payment will issue until the NMP is submitted.

We are very keenly aware of the need to process these cases and issue these balancing payments without delay. We have regularly communicated the importance of submitting these to participants, the farm representative bodies, the advisors and the media generally in order to generate as much awareness as possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to once again remind all GLAS 1 and 2 participants that an NMP must be submitted so that any outstanding balancing payments for 2016 and more importantly all future payments can issue. Failure to do so prevents you receiving any future payments under the scheme.

My Department is now preparing to make the 2017 advance payments to participants next month. As things stand, these 6,000 participants will not be receiving this payment unless an NMP is submitted.

I thank the Deputy for the opportunity to remind the 6,000 GLAS 1 and 2 participants who have not yet submitted an NMP to do so immediately. This will enable the Department to issue the outstanding balancing payments and ensure future GLAS payments can issue.

Ends