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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
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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‘Declared land – owned, leased or rented – must be subject to agricultural activity’ – DAFM

From 2023, an eligible hectare will be the basis of payment for all area-based payments, including the BISS, CRISS, Eco-Schemes, ANC, ect, in the DAFM’s new CAP.

Applicants must have control of the declared lands and must be at their disposal by either owning, leasing or renting the lands, to apply for payments in 2023.

Speaking as part of the DAFM’s webinar on land eligibility and agricultural activity under new CAP schemes 2023-2027, Thomas Harty of the DAFM’s Direct Payments Division, outlined:

“An eligible hectare is an agricultural area that is used for an agricultural activity. It is important that the land you declare is used for the agricultural activity.”

“Declared land (owned, leased or rented) must be subject to agricultural activity through the 2023 calendar year.”

“An agricultural area is the typical type of farming that we would all know, so arable land (crops, such as oats, wheat and barley, for example), permanent crops (miscanthus or willow or sinensis) or permanent grassland (permanent pasture). So, your standard agricultural land is included in them definitions.”

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“You will be familiar with these types of agricultural areas, but we have now included agro-forestry systems for anyone considering the growing of agro-forestry.”

“This is something that they can do both within a forestry scheme, and within the new BISS, they can do it as a stand-alone thing if it is something that they have an interest in doing themselves.”

What activity does a farmer have to carry out?

According to Harty, activities such as rearing livestock, producing crops, engaging in agroforestry (trees and typically, livestock in the same parcel), and maintaining an agricultural area are classified as the production of agricultural products.

Maintenance of parcel or landscape features, including topping, mulching, controlled burning (not between March 1st and August 31st – ensure it is carried out at correct time of year in correct conditions), spraying, hedge-cutting and ditch-cleaning.

“The drawing payment of payment or eligible hectare is not explicitly linked, as in there is not a requirement that you must be producing or have livestock or stock.”

“If you maintain the land, by whatever method best fits or suits the land that you have.”

Every second year

Harty highlighted that it is possible in specific, limited circumstances, for example, on environmental, biodiversity and climate-related grounds, that agricultural activity may only occur every second year.

Predominant activity means that agricultural activities must occur more than 50% of the year and must not significantly hamper agricultural activities.

“In these circumstances, an advisor would need to indicate that this is the option they are taking in advance and would have to give a reason for that particular activity being chosen.”

“If there is a reason of purpose to support environmental or climate or biodiversity targets, there will be no issue from the perspective of the security of your farm payments.”

“For example, farmers using land for temporary car parks for farm machinery or agricultural shows are all completely fine and acceptable, but it may become an issue where that non-agricultural use is happening for more than half of the year.”

“For example, if a field is a pitch for ten months of the year and cattle go in for one month, then there is an issue there with predominance.”

“So, 50% of the year is typically the starting point of what we would look at, but it is also important that whatever non-agricultural activity is going on, that it does not hamper the agricultural activities.”


However, he did point out that one of the changes from 2023 comes in the form of the DAFM’s request for receipts, invoices and GEOTAG imagery from some farmers (and/or their appointed/authorised agents) to demonstrate agricultural activity in a “small number” of follow-up checks.

On the application system, certain farmers will be asked to outline what agricultural activity they will be specifically carrying out at parcel level – for example, commonage, grassland but no livestock or those with high stocking rates.

Also, under the scheme, where a farmer opts to plant suitable land, under the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme, that land will be considered an eligible hectare, meaning that land can draw down your BISS in addition to premiums/payments under the forestry scheme.

Previous farming news article on That’s Farming:

Eco-Scheme: What you need to know about AP3 – Limiting Chemical N Usage

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