Sunday 25 September 2016

Environment scheme offers rich pickings

Up to €25,000 over five years is available for farms that qualify under GLAS II

Catherine Keena

Published 28/10/2015 | 02:30

Over 500 farmers in two areas in Offaly and Dublin identified as Grey Partridge zones will find GLAS 2 much more flexible
Over 500 farmers in two areas in Offaly and Dublin identified as Grey Partridge zones will find GLAS 2 much more flexible

There are lots of positives in GLAS II not least the €25,000 available per farm over the next five years. It's important to remember that one plan or set of options will not suit all farms; remember too that advisors can only advise based on what is showing up on the GLAS online planning system for each individual farm.

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Farmland Bird Areas

Looking at the specifics, there are approximately 10,000 farmers with Farmland Bird areas identified on their farm. Some of these areas are outside designated areas which will come as news to many farmers.

Changes to GLAS II bring welcome flexibility to the Farmland Bird option.

For example, the specified bird option does not have to be undertaken on all the area identified.

While the minimum length of margin to be undertaken on farms with Grey Partridge has been increased to 500m, the new scheme allows other options to be chosen on these farms.

The period of closing off land for geese and swans has been reduced - it's now October 15 to March 31.

Watercourses

Many farmers have watercourses - these can earn great money in GLAS. If identified on the GLAS online planning system as High Status watercourses, they will be given priority access to GLAS as Tier 1 status.

Where identified as Vulnerable Water, this gives priority access with Tier 2 status.

In both these cases farmers must fence all watercourses along grass fields on the farm 1.5 m from the top of the bank and are well paid for it at €1.50 per metre.

This is also an option for any farmer with watercourses. A farmer with 1,000 metres of watercourses will get €1,500 each year for five years. If the farmer has fields both sides of the watercourse, the payment is doubled to €3,000 for fencing both banks.

There is no maximum payment limit for this option.

Permanent stakes and wire must be used but there is no specification other than it must be fit for purpose for the stock on the farm.

Unlike the previous agri-environment scheme AEOS, payment in received in GLAS does not depend on the price paid for the fencing and indeed fencing may already be in place.

This is a good option for any farmer with a watercourse. It is a very useful measure to future-proof intensive grassland farms against challenges of improving water quality nationally.

Farmers fencing watercourses more than 1.5m from the top of the bank can earn huge money in GLAS.

Land along watercourses can earn €1,200 per hectare per year for five years

Riparian Margins can vary from three metres to 30m out from the back of the river.

A 30m margin along 333m of watercourses makes one hectare.

There is no maximum payment limit for this option. The margin must be cut at least once per year after August 15 and offtakes are allowed.

This will appeal to farmers as the land will be maintained in good agricultural condition during the five years.

Riparian Margins do not have to be undertaken on all watercourses.

A farmer can choose to do a margin on just one of his fields with watercourses, leaving other watercourses with no margin.

This flexibility makes this option very attractive.

Low Input Permanent Pasture

Other changes to GLAS II include a reduction in the maximum of Low Input Permanent Pasture (LIPP) to five hectares. To replace LIPP, farmers with watercourses could undertake a Riparian Margin worth four times the amount of money on that area.

There is also a reduction in the maximum length of Coppicing to 750m.

New hedgerows are not available in GLAS II. Remember the grove of 450 trees worth €405 can be planted in a shelter belt. Traditional Orchards are not covered by GLAS II.

Catherine Keena is a Teagasc countrywide management specialist

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