Dept gives insight into new greening measures

All farmers are subject to ‘greening‘ in the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in terms of crop diversification, permanent grassland and ecological focus areas.

According to Department of Agriculture’s Paud Evans, who spoke at the Agricultural Science Association’s CAP funding seminar yesterday, the new greening payment will be calculated as a percentage of the basic payment scheme payment. Below is a brief outline of his detailed presentation.

Crop diversification

In terms of crop diversification in his presentation he outlined: that under 10 ha of arable will be exempt; between 10ha-30ha of arable land will require two crops; and over 30ha of arable land will require three crops.

Exemptions from the proposed scheme were explained, which includes organic farmers; if 75 per cent of eligible area is permanent or temporary grass (max 30 ha of arable land); if 75 per cent of the arable land is temporary grassland and lands lying fallow (max 30 ha of arable land); and if 50 per cent of arable land was not declared in a previous year by applicant – all arable land must be cultivated by a different crop.

Definition of separate crops means were also outlined by the Department of Agriculture official, which were different crops, winter and spring barley of the same crop, land lying fallow and temporary grassland. He noted that each hectare can only be counted once in a scheme year.

It was explained with the main crop, it can not be more than 75 per cent, with two main crops, not more than 95 per cent. He explained mixed cropping is regarded as one crop and landscape feature that form part of the eligible area can be taken into account in the measurement of areas of separate crops.

Permanent grassland

With regards to permanent grassland, Evans explained that under the new greening measure, it is defined as land, which is used for grass production for five years or more. It can be applied at holding, regional or national level and there is a required five per cent tolerance before mandatory conversion of arable land to permanent grassland is applied.

He explained that there will be a ban on ploughing and reseeding for production of arable crops of certain Natura 2000 area. He said this ban will apply to permanent grassland in these areas.

With regards to ecological focus areas in the new greening payment, Evans said in his presentation that farmers with 15ha or less of arable land will be exempt.

Ecological focus area

Evans outlined farmers with more than 15ha of arable land must ensure that at least five per cent of their arable land is an ecological focus area – known as EFAs.

Areas includes temporary grassland but also excludes permanent grassland with the exception of buffer strips and landscape features, which can be declared as EFAs, he said.

It also includes afforested areas (SPS eligible) and short rotation coppice in establishment of 15ha.

The European Commission will now present a report evaluating the effectiveness of Ireland’s measures by 31 March 2014. The proposals here may include an increase of the EFA minimum area from five to seven per cent but must be agreed by Council of Ministers and European Parliament, he outlined.

In terms of types of EFA, he said land lying fallow; landscape features, including those situated adjacent to arable land; buffer strips, including buffer strips situated in permanent grassland; short rotation coppice, no use of mineral fertiliser and/or plant protection products; and eligible SPS afforested areas; areas of catch crops or green cover; and areas of nitrogen fixing crops.

The Department of Agriculture official noted some issues arising or EFA areas such as: the land lying fallow issue of preparing land or sowing crop during autumn; hedges, up to 10 metres; isolated trees; trees in a line, distance between trees less than 10 metres or crowns with a minimum diameter of four metres.

In addition, field margins where there is no agricultural production, ponds maximum of 0.1ha, ditches which a maximum width of six meters and traditional stonewalls will also be of issue, he said.

With regards to collective implementation, which has yet to be decided, farmers with 80 per cent of the holdings in same region may apply as EFAs, farmers with 80 per cent of the holding within a maximum radius of 15 kilometres, contiguous EFA areas required and members must have at least 50 per cent of EFA area on their own holding.

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Greening – weighting/co-efficients outlined by Paud Evans of the Department of Agriculture

Crop diversification examples include crop rotation, winter soil cover and catch crops, he outlined.

Other EFA examples include ecological set aside, buffer zones, biodiversity sites, Natura; uncultivated buffer strips/field margins; border, infield strips and areas managed for wildlife/specific fauna.

Speakers at the ASA seminar in Horse & Jockey on the new CAP, were from left: Paud Evans and Fintan O’Brien, both Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Anne Finnegan, AIB, seminar sponsors, ASA President Sean Farrell and Kevin Hanrahan, Teagasc Rural Economy Research Centre.

More reports on the ASA conference to follow