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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘If you do not meet the active farmer check, no payments can be made’

Active farmer: The next CAP (Common Agricultural Policy)

Under the DAFM’s CSP (CAP Strategic Plan), active farmers are “those engaged in at least a minimum level of agricultural activity”.

As per the next CAP, it has proposed a new holding level check. Its purpose is to ensure the applicant carries out the activity and takes the agricultural and economic “risks and rewards”.

As it stands, a check exists in the form of reviewing land, in particular, that may be involved in non-farming activities, such as recreation.

Given this, in 2023, its implementation will “be different”, as detailed below.

Active farmer 

What does it mean for livestock, non-livestock, and tillage farmers?

Livestock farmers:

  • Stocking rate check: > 0.10 LU/Ha (ANC);
  • The DAFM confirmed that the lower stocking rate may be acceptable as the threshold.  For example, the holding may have commonage land, and the recommended stocking rate would be lower;
  • The DAFM will utilise previous years’ data in the first instance. In 2023, farmers will be assessed based on the livestock they held in 2022. The DAFM’s Thomas Harty explained: “The purpose of that is to make sure that farmers know where they stand at the beginning of the year. If farmers cannot meet that based on 2022, for example, a new entrant, they can choose to be assessed on 2023. In these situations, it may lead to a slightly delayed payment as we have to run the stocking rate check across the full twelve months.”

Non-livestock grassland (farmers who make fodder/hay/silage only):

  • Evidence of maintenance – receipts from sales of hay/silage

Tillage farmers:

  • Administrative checks – receipts, share farming agreement;
Minimum stocking rates:

According to the DAFM, the minimum stocking rate outlined as 0.15 Livestock Units per hectare (LU/ha) has now been set at 0.10 LU/ha.

The new proposed minimum stocking rate of 0.10 LU/ha maintains the link with 1 ewe per hectare (1 ewe = 0.10 LU) in the current CAP.

What is next?

The DAFM plans to write to farmers in mid-2022 (likely around June) based on information that it currently holds from 2021, which is not deemed active.

The DAFM explained that this would allow farmers to adjust their farming practice or gather the required paperwork to prove that they are an active farmer, as set out above.

Harty explained:

“When you get to log into the system in February or March 2023, it will say: ‘based on 2022, you are an active farmer’.”

“The system will pull up the required information. If you do not meet it, it will ask you on what basis you propose. That may be livestock in 2023 or hay or silage.”

“It is very important to say that the active farmer check is fundamental. If you do not meet the active farmer check, no payments can be made under any scheme.”

“It is a critical thing for farmers to be aware of. For the vast majority, it is no issue; they would be well above the threshold. However, for a cohort, they need to consider the type of farming they engage in. They can assess what the best structure going forward is and what changes they might need to make,” Harty concluded.

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