Business Farming

Sunday 21 September 2014

Greening confusion over 'gappy' hedges and share-farming

Clare Minnock

Published 12/08/2014 | 00:00

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An explanatory booklet will be forwarded to all arable farmers in the autumn outlining examples of eligible and ineligible hedges.
An explanatory booklet will be forwarded to all arable farmers in the autumn outlining examples of eligible and ineligible hedges.

Confusion over the greening requirements contained in CAP reform is preventing farmers from making decisions about planting plans over the coming weeks.

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The issue was centre-stage at an Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) seminar on the topic in Horse and Jockey last week. While Department of Agriculture officials claimed that most queries about how the scheme will operate have been ironed out, they admitted that the rules governing share-farming require further clarification.

Speaking after the event, ACA president, Tom Dawson, advised consultants and farmers to avoid "skimping on percentages" for crop diversification and environmental focus areas (EFAs).

It is not compulsory for farmers to comply with the greening rules, but it will be unavoidable for those that do not want to lose 30pc of their Single Farm Payment from next year.

The main stumbling blocks for farmers are meeting crop diversification and EFA requirements, especially in relation to 'gappy' hedgerows.

Mr Dawson said that farmers will also need to become familiar with a number of potentially confusing terms.

For example arable lands emcompasses both 'temporary grassland' and 'tillage land'. The former is any area that is in grass in the current year but has had a tillage crop on it during the previous five years. Tillage lands are areas under tillage crop in the current year.

Problem

EFAs are a major component of greening, but the Department's Paud Evans insisted that farmers with smaller parcels or fields will not have a major problem with this requirement.

Farms with more than 15ha of arable lands must ensure that at least 5pc of the holding is an EFA.

Even though the requirement for 2015 is 5pc, Mr Evans urged farmers to have 6-8pc. He stated that it is likely that the 5pc requirement will increase to 8pc in 2018.

He also stressed the importance of all EFAs being adjacent to an arable area to be considered eligible.

From 2015, all applications with arable lands will only be able to submit online and registration is already beginning for this new system.

Mr Evans confirmed that the Department will be sending out maps to farmers outlining the EFAs on their 2014 area over the coming months.

He stressed that it will be the responsibility of the farmer to confirm if these areas are correct.

For example, for a hedge to be considered an EFA it must have 'woody growth'. However, the issue of hedges with gaps or breaks remains to be clarified by the department.

An explanatory booklet will be forwarded to all arable farmers in the autumn outlining examples of eligible and ineligible hedges.

It is worth noting that green cover and protein crops will also count towards EFAs.

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