The agri-environment pilot which has been sent to Europe for consideration will include the option of low-input permanent pasture as an “anchor option”, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has said.

The minister was discussing the proposed pilot measure at a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine yesterday evening (Tuesday, March 30).

In response to a question on the measure from Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe, Minister McConalogue said:

“We’re looking at a payment rate on 10ha and that’s the proposal we put to Europe, with an average payment rate of €4,700 on that. That will be on the basis of either income foregone or expenditure accrued.

“So; if you look at it, while there will be expenses undoubtedly in terms of because it’s results-based in terms of an outlay, and a charge in terms of engaging an agricultural consultant, you’re still talking €4,700 to begin with over 10ha,” the minister said.

One of the measures for example we’ve proposed; one of the key measures proposed to the commission for consideration is the option of low input permanent pasture as an option on that 10ha; that being the anchor option.

“The participation rate, given that it’s a pilot, is going to be very much limited by what we can get agreement from Brussels on, given the constraints of the transition period of CAP and only pilot schemes being allowed,” the minister warned.

“But, for farmers that would apply, if it’s €4,500 over 10ha and if that farmer has €260/ha for example average basic payment rate and let’s say under ANC [Areas of Natural Constraint] potentially could have €148/ha on ANC, you’re talking on that first 10ha, potentially that farmer having in terms of payments over €800/ha before they put a sheep or a lamb or a cow or a calf onto the land.

I think that would be quite attractive and a very good start for farmers and farm families; and I was particularly keen, as I said, to ensure that all farmers, even those that are smaller, of 10ha in size, would fully be able to participate.

“Because every farmer has the opportunity to make a really significant contribution in terms of doing measures which contribute to biodiversity and the environment – and we need to provide them with the opportunity to do that,” Minister McConalogue concluded.