Fertiliser cuts and tree planting among eco-scheme options

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Increasing non-productive farming features, reducing fertiliser use and planting trees will be among the measures farmers must carry out to receive an eco-scheme payment under the next CAP.

p to 25pc of direct payments to farmers will be allocated through the new eco schemes, aiming to encourage farmers to undertake actions beneficial to the climate and wider environment.

Details of the measures included in the schemes were revealed by the Department of Agriculture in a meeting with farm organisations and other stakeholders last week.

It is understood farmers will need to choose at least two options from the following eco-scheme measures:

l devote up to eight per cent of land to non-productive features (hedgerows, trees etc);

l practise extensive farming between .15LU to 1LU;

l commit to reducing the use of chemical nitrogen on farm (extent of cut yet to be decided);

l use of precision agriculture, such as GPS fertiliser-spreading technology;

l commit to planting trees on the farm (number per ha yet to be decided).

An expected 130,000 eligible farmers could participate in the scheme, and the payment per hectare will be impacted by the expected participation and the expected uptake of various actions. It is also understood that farm organisations were told that the expected payment for eco-scheme actions will be in the region of €75/ha.

However, it should be noted that funding allocations for eco schemes are inter-linked with other direct payment measures and are subject to change depending on decisions related to capping, convergence and other measures.

The eco schemes intervention will be implemented annually, with farmers having the opportunity to opt in or out on an annual basis.

Farmers will apply through the BISS (currently BPS) application from 2023 onwards.

The European Commission and the Department of Agriculture have highlighted that the “agricultural practices” or actions that constitute the eco scheme must be over and above standard farming conditionality requirements.

Commenting on the proposed eco-scheme options, President of ICMSA, Pat McCormack, said that picking two of the five options will not be an option for a commercial farmer and the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue will have to go back to the drawing board and come up with realistic and practical options for those farmers.

“The reality today is that the people dependent on farming for their income are stocked well in excess of 1 LU per hectare. Nor is it likely that many will have the option of allocating eight per cent of their holding to non-production,” Mr McCormack said.

“The rules around planting trees are unclear, while the chemical N reduction is likely to have a direct impact on
production.

“It’s also worth noting that GPS fertiliser spreaders are very expensive pieces of equipment that are out of the financial reach of most farmers. None of these options are straightforward and obviously feasible.”