Draft details of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s National Strategic Plan for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) from 2023 were shared with farm organisations recently.

Among these details is a plan to allow farmers draw down payments on certain non-agricultural features, including scrub, habitats or copse.

These features would be included in the definition of an “eligible hectare” in Ireland’s plan for the next CAP.

The plan outlines that an eligible hectare shall consist of any agricultural area that, for during the year for which support is requested, is used for an agricultural activity; or, in the case where the area is also used for non-agricultural activities, is predominantly used for agricultural activities; and which is at the farmer’s disposal.

The department’s proposed plan says that, from January 1, 2023, 30% of a parcel may consist of features that are beneficial to climate and biodiversity and may be considered eligible to draw down payment on.

The department estimates that such a move would add some 55,000 eligible hectares in the next CAP.

However, these scrub and habitat areas would not be designated landscape features, allowing farmer to remove them if they wished.

Furthermore, currently unfinalised regulations, if adopted, would allow eligible hectares include areas used for agricultural activities only every second year, if there was a climate or biodiversity benefit in such an arrangement.

‘Flagship environment scheme’ in future CAP

The draft strategic plan will outline the entire shape of CAP in Ireland from 2023 – including the new ‘flagship environment scheme’ that was promised in the Programme for Government.

The scheme is referred to as an ‘Agri-Environment Climate Measure’ (AECM) in the strategy details.

The AECM will have two ‘menus’ of actions that farmers can undertake – ‘Menu A’ and ‘Menu B’.

Menu A will be very similar to the current REAP scheme, while Menu B will contain the same measures as Menu A as well as landscape measures carried out on a co-operative basis.