A revision in Ireland’s draft Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan will allow farmers to draw down full payment on land parcels that contain up to 50% of “beneficial features” from January 2023.

The figure is a revision on the original proposal which would have allowed land parcels that contain up to 30% of these features to remain eligible for the full payment. However, it was revised upwards following an observation letter received from the European Commission in March.

Rock has also been added to the list of beneficial features, which already included scrub, trees, copses, woodland and habitat.

The resubmitted draft also outlines that grassland parcels which contain between 50.01% and 70% of these features will be mapped and deducted from the eligible area.

However, where these features constitute more than 70.01% of a grassland parcel’s make-up, or over 50.01% of an arable parcel, the entire area will be deemed ineligible.

The changes, which were outlined at a recent meeting of the CAP Consultative Committee and submitted to the commission on Friday, have been welcomed by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA). General secretary of the association Eddie Punch told Agriland:

“The fact that you’re allowed to have 50% of your land parcel in beneficial features, including scrub, rock, bushes and trees, is very welcome.

“It was a complete travesty that up to now, people with habitat beneficial land were being penalised under their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).”

Punch said that the composition of land varies across the country with some regions simply, naturally, containing more scrub, trees and bushes than other, flatter areas. He said that this was not the fault of the farmer, “who has to farm what is in front of them”.

“It was deeply contradictory to all of the objectives around biodiversity, and it was also unfair on people with rough, mountainous land or land that for various reasons you just couldn’t plough.

“Now, up to 50% of your land features can be beneficial features. That’s really important because [the previous system] really hurt people on rougher ground,” he noted.

The latest draft of the CAP Strategic Plan has been submitted to the Commission for its consideration, while the CAP Consultative Committee is set to meet again in September.