DAERA announces changes to CAP area-based schemes for 2018

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced changes to Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) area-based schemes for 2018.

These changes are as a result of amendments agreed in Brussels to EU regulations in December 2017.

Young Farmers’ Payment (YFP)

Successful applicants for the Young Farmers’ Payment will now receive the payment for five years following their first successful application to the scheme.

Previously, this five-year period would have been reduced had the young farmer been farming as head of holding for a time before first submitting an application.

However, the requirement remains that, to be eligible for the YFP, a successful first-time application has to be submitted within five years of the young farmer becoming head of holding.

This change means that, for example, a young farmer who has been head of holding for four years when submitting a successful first-time application for YFP will now receive the payment for the subsequent five years compared to only one year under previous rules.

The change will be applied retrospectively to successful first-time applications for YFP in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The department will be contacting those applicants who, as a result of this rule change, are now due a payment in 2016 and 2017 scheme years.

Applicants who have been accepted for YFP in previous years and are now eligible for YFP in 2018 should make an application for YFP on the online 2018 Single Application Form (SAF)

The five-year payment period is subject to applicants continuing to meet the eligibility conditions of the scheme during this time.

Any future changes that may be made to EU legislation and future decisions taken on agricultural support policy by the UK Government and Northern Ireland Government after the UK leaves the EU could change this position.

Please note: A clarification made by the department on February 2 stated that the new arrangements cannot be used to make retrospective payments to Young Farmers’ Payment applicants in respect of 2016 or 2017 if payments were not due in those years under the old rules.

Greening Payment

Crop diversification is designed to encourage a diversity of crops on holdings with 10ha or more of arable land.

Farms which met either of the following requirements were exempt from crop diversification in the 2017 scheme year, meaning that they did not have to undertake the crop diversification requirements but would still receive their Greening Payment:

  • Where more than 75% of the arable land is used for the production of grasses or other herbaceous forage, is land lying fallow, or is subject to a combination of these uses, provided that the arable area not covered by these uses does not exceed 30ha;
  • Where more than 75% of the eligible agricultural land is permanent grassland, is used for the production of grasses or other herbaceous forage or for the cultivation of crops under water for a significant part or for a significant part of the crop cycle, or is subject to a combination of these uses, provided that the arable area not covered by these uses does not exceed 30ha.

The 30ha restriction on these crop diversification exemptions has been removed for the 2018 scheme year.

In the case of the first exemption listed above, leguminous crops have been added to the list of uses of arable land which, if they exceed 75% of the total arable land, qualify the farmer for an exemption from crop diversification.

This brings this exemption into line with a similar exemption from ecological focus area.

Definition of a Crop

Triticum Spelta (Spelt) will be regarded as a distinct crop for the purposes of crop diversification.

The Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirement is designed to improve biodiversity on farms and to provide habitats for species in decline or at risk of extinction on holdings with more than 15 ha of arable land.

Farms which met either of the following requirements were exempt from an EFA requirement in 2017 scheme year:

  • Where more than 75% of the arable land is used for the production of grasses or other herbaceous forage, is land lying fallow, is used for cultivation of leguminous crops, or is subject to a combination of these uses, provided that the arable area not covered by these uses does not exceed 30ha;
  • Where more than 75% of the eligible agricultural land is permanent grassland, is used for the production of grasses or other herbaceous forage or for the cultivation of crops under water for a significant part or for a significant part of the crop cycle, or is subject to a combination of these uses, provided that the arable area not covered by these uses does not exceed 30ha.

The 30ha restriction on these EFA exemptions has been removed for 2018 scheme year.

EFA Weighting Factors

The weighting factor to be used when calculating the area which can count for EFA has been increased for the following crops as set out below:

  • Short Rotational Coppice has increased from 0.3 to 0.5;
  • Nitrogen Fixing Crops has increased from 0.7 to 1.0.

Negative List

The negative list provisions apply to the very small number of farms in Northern Ireland that also operate airports, railway services, waterworks, real estate services, and permanent sport and recreational grounds. These will not be applied from the 2018 scheme year.

The active farmer requirement as commonly referred to in Northern Ireland (i.e. the requirement for the applicant to be farming the land declared on the Single Application Form) is not connected to the negative list and continues to apply in 2018 scheme year.