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Implementation of Commonage Framework Plans

1. Introduction - Date of implementation

In introducing the destocking element of the Commonage FrameworkPlans, Minister of State Éamon Ó Cuív TD, said that the actual destocking, if any, as set out in the Framework Plans is to be applied for the 2003 Ewe Premia Scheme. Destocking percentages are now available for over 90% of commonage areas nationally.

Each farmer, in consultation with an agricultural adviser, will, he said, apply the destocking formula at individual farm level and notify the Department of the quota to be suppressed or given back.

Where framework plan percentages are available, farmers should do this within the next 3 months and this will enable them to bring their stock numbers in line with the 2003 levels during the 2002 season.

2. Option of not farming commonages

The Minister said that farmers could opt out of using commonages shares altogether and claim no area-based and REPS payments on commonage. They would then not be subject to the destocking recommendations, though they must follow any environmental requirements in the relevant framework plans.

3. Polluter pays principle

The PPP will not apply to any commonage where the destocking percentage is below 20%. Where the framework plan identifies areas of these commonages as moderately or more severely damaged, the farm plans prepared under REPS or the Dúchas scheme will include any provision necessary to deal with them.

4. Destocking of 10% or less

There will be no automatic compulsory destocking on commonages with destocking levels of 10% or less. Where the framework plan identifies areas of the commonage as moderately or more severely damaged, the farm plans prepared under REPS or the Dúchas scheme will include any provision necessary to deal with them.

5. Destocking above 10%

The farmer has two options:

  •  Accept the recommended destocking and qualify for the REPS Measure A rate or apply for the Dúchas national compensation scheme, or
  • Opt out of using his commonage share as at 2 above.

6. No destocking above 50% in 2003

It is likely that the number of farmers subject to destocking at this level will be extremely small. Given that in the western counties these areas have already been destocked by 30% for three years, and subject to the planner being satisfied at individual farm level that no higher destocking is required, sheep destocking will not be greater than 50% for the year 2003 and 60% for 2004 above any destocking under the Polluters Pays Principle. These areas will be reviewed in 2005.

7. Sheep permitted over quota

To allow for losses while still being able to meet his undertakings under the premia schemes operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, it is reasonable for a farmer to keep some sheep over active quota. The following tolerance will be permitted:

  • On commonages up to 200 hectares, 5%;
  • On larger commonages, 10%

8. Base stocking figures for calculating destocking

The figure to be used for calculations will be the 2001 quota including quota frozen in the 30% interim destocking or quota frozen under REPS I.

How cattle stocking is calculated is on enclosed appendix.

9. Allocation of Surrendered quota

There will be cases in which environmental or social considerations (such as the setting up of young farmers) would justify the giving out of quota. Detailed proposals will be announced for the use of surrendered quota (i.e. quota returned to the National Reserve in the relevant commonage when farmers die, retire etc) for this purpose. Every case will be examined by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and there commendations of the relevant commonage framework plans will be taken into consideration.

Where undergrazing is a potential problem, special consideration will be given to the allocation of quota to farmers.

10. Cattle

There will be no automatic compulsory destocking of cattle on cattle only farms. The planner will address the requirements of the framework plan by way of a management regime which may, where appropriate, include destocking.

On mixed cattle and sheep farms when doing stock calculations, having converted cattle into ewe equivalents, it can transpire that cattle are notionally on the commonage.

In these cases, if a condition is written into a REPS Plan that cattle at no time will be on the commonage, they will not for stocking purposes be assessed as being on this commonage. It will be up to the REPS planner to assess any appropriate reduction in the stocking level of cattle on the enclosed land. This will apply to both the polluters pays calculation and the percentage destocking calculation.

11. Stocking of Purchased Land

In the event of a farmer in REPS purchasing additional non-commonage land, conditional on a clause being inserted in the Plan that cattle will not be put on the commonage, he will be allowed stock the enclosed land with cattle on the basis of 10 above.

12. Areas where framework plan destocking figures are not yet available

There will be no automatic destocking in these areas until commonage frameworks are produced for them. The planner will assess the level of destocking required, which must be adjusted when the framework plan percentages become available.

13. L eased Commonage

Where leased commonage has been declared continuously for areaaid in years 1998 to 2002 this land will be allowable for stockingdensity calculations. The leasing must be continued for the fullperiod of participation in either REPS or the Dúchas national scheme. No payment will be made on leased commonage, as per EU agreement.

14. Appeals

An appeals mechanism will be established. The destocking in the Framework Plans will be implemented pending the outcome of appeals; quota will be restored from the date of determination of the appeal if it is successful. Every effort will be made to decide appeals in as short a time-frame as possible.

15. Review

A sample of the plans will be reviewed not earlier than 2005. Details to be released later.

Appendix

The coefficients used to convert cattle to ewe equivalents areas follows:

  • Cattle 0 -1year 2 ewe equivalents
  • Cattle 1-2 years 4 ewe equivalents
  • Cattle over 2 years 6.7 ewe equivalents

The average number of animals in each category over the preceding 12 months should be used and multiplied by the appropriate coefficient. Existing REPS participants should extract the information from their record sheets which should show the number of animals on the farm for each month of the year. The monthly figures for each of the 12 months should be totalled and divided by 12 to get the average over the year.

For farmers not in REPS, the average figure may be computed from CMMS records.

Mid-Term Review of REPS

I will be bringing forward proposals for the mid -term review of REPS that will include the following:

  • Simplification of forms
  • Penalties
  • Inclusion of leased commonage for payment in REPS in limited circumstances
  • Inclusion of dormant owned commonage shares for payment in REPS in limited circumstances
  • Levels of payment under the general REP Scheme

A consultation process in relation to these will be initiated in the near future.