The Department of Agriculture will no longer be imposing minimal stocking rates on farmers with marginal land, Dr Kevin Smyth Assistant Secretary in the Department of Agriculture has confirmed.

Speaking at a hearing of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, he said the Department is no longer prescribing activity levels on Irish farmers so that they qualify for farm payments.

“From now on we are not telling farmers how to achieve characteristics – that’s up to them,” the Department Assistant Secretary said.

Dr Smyth said that Department will tell farmers “this is what the land should look like and it’s up to you to achieve it by whatever means necessary”.

“We’re not going out there counting sheep any more,” he said.

According to Dr Smyth, from today, complications surrounding land eligibility have been made simpler by the launch of a new booklet explaining the issues for farmers.

The system was never going to be simple. It was never designed to be simple. It’s a complex system to reflect the different types of land that are there.

“However, from today the system is simpler because, basically, what we are talking about here is changes in favour of the farmers.

He said the question as to whether land is eligible or ineligible has been dealt with answered and Irish solution looking at the characteristics of Irish farming that has to be a good thing form farmers point of view.