Greening of direct payment, on-the-farm outline by EU agri expert

The greening measures, to be introduced as part of reformed Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) added to cross compliance, will form the baseline for any new agri-environment measures and significant work is required to transform the proposed Rural Development Programme (RDP) framework into schemes suitable for Irish farming and the environment.

That was the message from Alan Matthews, Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy in Trinity College Dublin, who was speaking at the recent Teagasc Agri-Environment Conference in Tullamore.

Speaking on the topic of CAP greening and the future directions for Ireland’s rural development programme, Matthews pointed out that in the design of a new agri-environment scheme, payments could be made to groups of farmers or land managers to achieve landscape-level benefits. He also stressed the need to make available sufficient advisory capacity on the regulatory requirements and on actions relating to innovation.

To receive payments, farmers will be obliged to fulfil certain criteria such as crop diversification, maintenance of permanent pasture, the preservation of environmental reservoirs and landscapes.

Courtesy of his presentation, Mathews outlined a number of on-the-farm examples of this new greening payment and the requirement of farmers as set out in the new CAP.  Consultations on the rollout of CAP 2014-2020 for Ireland, including the new greening measures, are currently under way by the Department of Agriculture. The rollout and the exact measures for this new payment have yet to be confirmed. The examples below are based on CAP guidelines and the Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy’s interpretation of these.

Greening and livestock farms
With greening and livestock farms, Mathews outlined the impact and he used an example of a livestock farm of 45ha, with 42ha of permanent grassland and 3ha used for the growing of fodder crops.

In terms of crop diversification here, he said requirements do not apply to this farm as more than 75 per cent of the eligible agricultural area is permanent grassland and the arable area does not exceed 30ha. With regard to permanent grassland, he said this farm will have to contribute to the obligation for the ratio of permanent grassland not to decrease by more than five per cent compared to the reference ratio in any year.

And in summary in said the ecological focus area (EFA) requirements do not apply to this farm as more than 75 per cent of the eligible agricultural area is permanent grassland and the arable area does not exceed 30ha.

Greening and mixed farms
Mathews used an example of a mixed farm of 50 ha with 12 ha tillage. “Because the arable land of this farm covers between 10ha and 30ha the farmer will be required to grow two different crops on that arable land. The main crop must not cover more than 75 per cent of the arable land,” he noted.

In terms of permanent grassland, under the greening payment Mathews said this farm will have to contribute to the obligation for the ratio of permanent grassland not to decrease by more than five per cent compared to the reference ratio in any year.

In addition, here the EFA requirements does not apply to this farm as the arable land covers less than 15ha even though permanent grassland is less than 75 per cent of farm.

Greening and arable farms
Here Mathews used the example of an arable farm with 60 hectares, 25 hectares in permanent grassland. “Because arable land of this farm covers more than 30ha, farmer will be required to grow three different crops on that arable land. Main crop must not cover more than 75 per cent and the two main crops together must not cover more than 95 per cent of the arable land,” he said.

With permanent grassland, this farm will have to contribute to the obligation for the ratio of permanent grassland not to decrease by more than five per cent compared to the reference ratio in any year, he added.

In addition, the EFA requirements apply to this farm as the arable land covers more than 15ha, Mathews noted. “Five percent of the arable land must be managed as EFA, drawing from the list of EFA options made available.”

Equivalent practices

Mathews also spoke on equivalent greening practices such as crop diversification, the maintenance of existing permanent grassland, such as meadow management and extensive grazing systems, and ecological focus area on 5 per cent of the land, such as buffer strips and field margins.

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