Under Ireland’s new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which came into effect on January 1st, 2023, an eligible hectare is defined as an agricultural area with an agricultural activity, and land is at the farmer’s disposal.
According to Teagasc Ballinrobe’s Eamonn Patten, who spoke during Teagasc Mayo’s spring webinar, which focused on new direct payments, there are many similarities with the previous rules under the past CAP period, as follows:
- Agricultural area is permanent grassland, arable and permanent crops;
- Artificial features – for example, roads and buildings – are not eligible for payment;
- Check maps carefully because of the new Eco-Scheme.
Moreover, another change in the new CAP period comes in the form of land eligibility.
With regards to an eligible hectare, up to 50% of a parcel can now be made up of a feature beneficial – such as trees or scrubs, for example – to the climate and environment without the eligible area being impacted.
He commented: “Some parcels will have a higher eligible area if not excessive scrub cover, but must be all actively farmed.”
“It is no good having a piece of scrub fenced off and then putting it in for payment if no stock are going in on it.”
Patten also outlined that in the new CAP period, an eligible hectare will not be the same as a reference area, for example, for nitrates.
During the virtual information session, he stressed to farmers that “land must be farmed – no activity means no payment anymore”.
The Business & Technology Advisor – Drystock at the state agency’s Ballinrobe office also highlighted the importance of meeting active farmer requirements.
Under the DAFM’s CAP Strategic Plan, active farmers are defined as “those engaged in at least a minimum level of agricultural activity”.
A minimum level of agricultural activity will be based on the minimum stocking rate requirement, which will be similar to ANC for grassland farms.
He commented: “If you do not have the stock, you risk not getting your payments. You have to prove proof.”
If the DAFM cannot verify the active status of a grassland farmer from its databases, a farmer will have to select from a range of options on the BISS from 2023.”
These include making hay/silage, topping, other grazing livestock, plans to purchase livestock in 2023, ect.
“You will have to collect receipts to prove to the DAFM that you have, for example, made a crop of hay or silage, you have done topping or other grazing livestock, you may have to get horse passports and the likes.”
“With plans to purchase livestock in 2023, they will be looking at 2022 stocking levels on the farm.”
“The 2023 CAP application system will assess your holding status as you go through it and will ask you questions. If you have no stock, it would ask you if you are proposing to carry stock or something like that.”
“I think the active farmer will be looked at more thoroughly by the DAFM anymore under this regime. Inactive herds, as I previously said, will probably have no payments,” he concluded.