With 30% of direct payments dependent on meeting the ‘greening’ criteria, it is important that farmers understand and comply with the new rules, Ivan Whitten of Teagasc told the National Tillage Conference recently.

Whitten said the impact of the new regime must be evaluated at an individual farm level, and appropriate changes implemented.

According to Whitten, the starting point is to calculate how much arable land and grassland you have in 2015.

For greening the calculations are based on “reference areas” and not the actual area of crop, he said.

Whitten’s presentation also said that the new greening conditions may impact on farmers in other sectors depending on their historical cropping pattern (for example a dairy farmer with whole crop or maize may trigger greening).

Knowing the cropping history of land taken as conacre is also essential, he said.

Whitten said arable land is any field that was classified as arable in any of the years from 2010 to 2014.

“Land used for arable cropping in 2015 will be classed as arable for the purposes of greening calculations. This land classification can be checked with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.”

Whitten outlined that the value of each standard tillage entitlement will drop by 13.8% from €333 to €286 over the next five years so cash flow planning will be vital.

“Farmers need to work out the land bank they require in 2015 and calculate the consequences of dropping low-performance rented land on their direct payment,” he said.

Whitten also advised that separate payment dates for the BPS, greening and any protein support elements may make it wise to adjust loan repayment dates to match them.

Greening requirements

Greening: Crop diversification and Ecological Focus area (EFA) requirements If the farm is all under permanent pasture, or if permanent pasture accounts for more than 75% of the area, and less than 30ha of tillage crops are grown, then greening does not apply. Permanent pasture is all grassland that has been six or more years under grass.

Crop diversification requirements on the farm if above 10 hectares: Either two or three crop types may need to be grown depending on the total crop area. Farmers who have close to 75% of their farmed area in grass with 30 hectares or less of arable, can consider renting additional permanent grassland to secure an exemption. Applying and qualifying for GLAS and adopting cover crops may also give scope for a diversification exemption.

EFA rules on farms above 15 hectares: Where EFAs apply, growers must have 5% of their area comprised of landscape features (hedgerows etc) and area-based options such as protein crops, which qualify as EFAs. Individual on-line maps are currently available to validate and amend landscape features such as hedges, dry drains and watercourse buffer strips. These maps need to be checked and edited on-line immediately. To do this growers must register with DAFM, either on-line, or by contacting the Helpdesk at 1890 252118.