Rural environmental schemes
Various schemes have been set up over the years to provide income support for farmers who engage in specified environmental activities. The current Green, Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS), builds on the earlier REPS and AEOS schemes.
The Green, Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme is part of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. It provides funding to farmers in return for delivering environmental management on their land. Farmers must commit to the scheme for a minimum period of 5 years.
Aims of the scheme
GLAS has a number of interlinked aims, which include:
- Protecting agricultural land, its habitats and biodiversity
- Promoting environmentally sustainable methods of farming
- Addressing issues of climate change mitigation, water quality and the preservation of habitats and species
- Maintaining features such as traditional drystone walls and hedgerows
All farmers in GLAS must comply with a list of mandatory core requirements, which aim to ensure that farmers have an enhanced level of environmental knowledge. Farmers must keep records of relevant actions delivered and must also have a plan for nutrient resource efficiency on their holding. They must also undergo training in environmental practices and standards.
Structure of the scheme
Access to GLAS is divided into several tiers and sub-tiers.
Tier 1 (a) is the highest priority access to the scheme. You can gain access to it if your holding contains Priority Environmental Assets such as private Natura sites, particular farmland birds (for example, corncrakes or hen harriers), commonages, high status water areas or rare breeds. If your holding contains any of these, you must choose them and plan the relevant actions.
Tier 1 (b) is for farmers who engage in Priority Environmental Actions, which include minimum tillage; catch crops establishment from a sown crop, low-emission slurry spreading and wild bird cover. There are detailed requirements as regards stocking rates (for livestock farms) and area (for arable farms). Registered organic farmers may qualify for priority access to the scheme under Tier 1(b) by selecting actions appropriate to the farm. It is not guaranteed that all eligible applicants in Tier 1(b) will get into the Scheme and a scoring matrix will apply if necessary.
Tier 2 is the second level of access to GLAS. It is not guaranteed that all eligible applicants in Tier 2 will get into the Scheme and a scoring matrix will apply if necessary.
Tier 2 (a) is for farmers who do not have Priority Environmental Assets but whose lands include a Vulnerable Water Area. You must select the appropriate actions relevant to Vulnerable Water Areas.
Tier 2 (b) is for farmers who do not have a Vulnerable Water Area but who engage in one of the Priority Environmental Actions listed under Tier 1 (b). There are different requirements as regards stocking rates and area of holding.
Tier 3 covers a series of general actions, which aim to enhance the environmental, water quality and biodiversity benefits delivered. They can be chosen in addition to Tier 1 and Tier 2 actions or on their own. However, choosing only general actions will not guarantee entry to the scheme. These actions include bat boxes, coppicing hedgerows, low-input permanent pasture and protection of archaeological sites.
A scoring matrix will be used to allow farmers to join GLAS by means of these actions if take-up of Tier 1 and Tier 2 actions permits.
Some farmers undertaking particularly challenging actions may qualify for GLAS+, a mechanism to provide additional compensation in return for exceptional environmental commitment.
GLAS+ will typically apply where the Priority Environmental Assets on the farm require the farmer to deliver a particularly high level of environmental commitment.
Detailed rates of payment for the various elements of GLAS are on the website of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
In general, the maximum GLAS payment is €5,000 per year. However, some farmers undertaking particularly challenging actions may qualify for GLAS+ and for a top-up payment of up to €2,000 per year.
In the case of Registered Farm Partnerships, these maximum amounts may be multiplied by the number of farm holdings brought to the Partnership, subject to a maximum of 3 holdings.
How to apply
An approved GLAS advisor must prepare the GLAS application.
For further information, you can contact your local office of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine or Teagasc.