The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is set to ask the European Commission to include designated Natura land in the new eco-scheme, Agriland understands.

Specifically, the department will ask for designated land to be allowed under the ‘Space for Nature’ action, in which farmers (who choose this option), will have to keep a percentage of their land as ‘non-productive areas’, over and above what is demanded under basic payment compliance.

Up to now, there has been no provision made in the draft Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan (CSP) for the inclusion of these lands, though some farmer representatives had been calling for this land to be allowed.

While this land may be included now, there might be a catch.

If designated land is to be included in the Space for Nature measure, it is understood that designated hectares will not count as a full hectare.

In other words, a farmer may be required to include more than one hectare of designated land for this to be regarded as a payable ‘hectare’ under the terms of the measure.

Furthermore, Agriland understands that similar flexibility is being sought for forested land, whereby hectares with forestry can be included in the ‘Space for Nature’ measure.

However, there may be another potential caveat here: The inclusion of forested land may be considered only as a ‘box-ticking exercise’ that will allow farmers meet the minimum percentage threshold of non-productive areas, but this land may not necessarily be considered as payable hectares under the scheme.

It’s important to note though that, at this point, these details have not been confirmed, and are currently up to the department and the commission.

Farmers who choose the Space for Nature measure will be required to leave 7% of their land as non-productive areas. This goes beyond the minimum percentage required to avail of the new Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) – the successor to the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) – where farmers must leave 4% of their land as non-productive areas.

Farmers who are involved in the eco-scheme will select two measures from eight options provided.

However, if a farmer selects the Space for Nature measure and leaves 10% or more of their land as non-productive areas, this will count as two options being completed and the farmer can then avail of the full rate of payment, according to the draft CSP as it currently stands.

The proposed rate of payment will be €74/ha (per scheme year) though this is contingent on scheme uptake.