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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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New CAP: ‘If there is no activity on the land, there is no payment’

Eligible land: What does the DAFM propose under the next CAP?

To draw down payments under the next CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), land must meet the definition of an ‘eligible hectare’.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Thomas Harty, the current definition is an “agricultural area with an agricultural activity and land is at the disposal”.

In the DAFM’s view, an agricultural area is permanent grassland, arable and permanent crops.

Eligible land

During a recent public information meeting on the Common Agricultural Policy draft Strategic Plan 2023-2027, he explained:

“That simply means that you either own the land, lease it or rent it or you have a right to be on the land.”

He confirmed that many of the fundamental rules relating to eligibility that currently exists will roll over to the next CAP period (2023-2027).

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The DAFM official confirmed that currently, artificial features are not eligible for payment and will not be in the future.

Furthermore, to avail of payments, you must farm the land and “if there is no activity on the land, there is no payment”.

In terms of changes, the DAFM proposes that up to 30% of a parcel can be made up of features that are “beneficial” to the water protection, climate, and biodiversity (e.g., scrub, trees etc.) without the eligible area being impacted.

According to the DAFM, this would ensure that for areas of certain non-agricultural features, a farmer would not have to remove them to be allowed to draw down a BISS payment, Eco Scheme, or any Pillar II area-based payments.

Another change on the table is a maintenance activity every two years.

The DAFM is implementing these changes to ensure “as much coherence as possible” between Pillar one and Pillar two.

Space for Nature

He then outlined another change to what the DAFM terms as conditionality under the GAEC 8 (Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition) – Space for Nature.

“Anyone who was or is a tillage farmer may be familiar with this term,” he told attendees.

“It is currently called an ecological focus area. At present, all tillage farmers, at a certain scale, must have at least 5% of the farm made up of these areas, again beneficial to the climate and the environment.”

Harty said that going forward in the new CAP, all farmers, grassland, or tillage, must have at least 4 % of an area made up of features that are beneficial to the climate and environment.

Some of these eligible features include:

  • Scrub;
  • Field margins;
  • Drains;
  • Hedges;
  • Natura lands;
  • Forestry with “appropriate weighting factors”.

Parcel land checks 

He went on to say that “from 2023, we [the DAFM] will be carrying out more explicit checks on not only is there an activity, but who is doing it”.

“This is distinct from the active farmer check as this is a parcel level check. Where there is some doubt on our part, we are going to ask, through the application, that people will indicate how they are carrying out an activity themselves.”

“A prime example would be a Co Cork farmer with a commonage in Donegal. We are going to ask him/her, how are you carrying out an activity in Donegal, when you are in Cork?”

“Similarly, or the same concept, if you are a farmer declaring commonage, we are going to ask, what activity are you, as an individual, carrying out on that commonage? It will not have to be livestock. There are other forms of maintenance or activity that are acceptable, but the question will be asked.”

“Another example will be tillage farmers with grassland but no livestock. Again, probably, they may well be making hay or silage. However, we are going to ask the question: what activity, as a tillage farmer, are you carrying out?”

Land details information 

In 2023, the DAFM will ask farmers, particularly those that are highly stocked, to provide land details information.

They will have to declare what form of agricultural activity are they carrying out on lands.

Where necessary, Harty explained that the DAFM will carry out follow-up administrative checks. He said that “in a small number” of cases, the DAFM may need to visit farmers to validate the information.

He confirmed that “where a third party is carrying out activity, land is deemed ineligible for payment”.

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