Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 23 September 2017

Tillage farmers must go 'green' for BPS

THIS YEAR sees the introduction of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) with an additional greening payment. Grassland farmers will be deemed 'green' by definition and require no further action. However, tillage farmers will have to ensure that they meet their greening obligations.

There are two main components to greening - crop diversification and Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs).

Crop diversification

Farmers with between 10-30ha of tillage crops are required to have two different crops. Those with greater than 30ha are required to have three crops. In the majority of cases this requirement should not be too hard to satisfy.

For example, new reseeds (from tillage land) sown in the last five years are considered an arable crop and can be one of the three crops grown.

Furthermore some of the under five year-old pasture can be declared as either temporary grass or fallow, which is then deemed to be two different crops.

There are different management rules depending on how this reseeded grass is declared in your BPS application so be aware of all the consequences. No more than 75pc of the total arable area can be one crop. The two main crops cannot be more than 95pc. For those on the smaller land area, the third crop could be reseeded headlands that fail to deliver viable yields. It is reasonable to expect that a small area of a third crop will suffer from lack of management due to inconvenience. These areas can generate a negative return so reseeding these small areas, while providing different options for occasional grazing or harvesting, also permit more viable alternatives.

If grass is sown and declared as fallow, this must be left unused until July 31 each year. Furthermore if the land area continues to be declared as fallow it will remain fallow into the future. Declaring it as temporary grass will convert it to permanent pasture after five years.

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Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs)

This is a requirement for all farmers with 15ha or more of arable land. Farmers are obliged to have at least 5pc of their arable land in EFAs. Be aware when undertaking calculations that temporary grassland is included for arable calculations.

Typical EFAs are landscape features such as hedgerows and drains/ditches. All farmers are to shortly receive maps and details of their EFAs based on their 2014 application.

If the percentage shown is close to 5pc it may be prudent to consider some protein crops such as beans, peas, lupins red clover or alfalfa. Each hectare of protein crop is equivalent to 0.7ha of an EFA.

Protein crops have the added benefit that they will benefit from €250/ha of protein aid (peas, beans and lupins only). The actual area in eligible forestry and short rotation coppice will also be included for EFAs.

In addition each hectare of catch crop/winter cover is equivalent to 0.3ha of EFA. Please note that the same parcel cannot be used for two EFA measures in the same year.

For example, protein crops that are followed by catch crops in the same 12 month period.

Hedges and drains in protein crop fields also cannot be counted for EFAs as this is considered as double counting. The greening payment will amount to an additional 44.27pc on top of the basic payment.

While there will be no greening penalties for non-compliance in 2015 and 2016, non-payment of the greening portion could be considered a penalty in itself.

All farmers should note that there will be no paper applications for tillage growers in 2015.

All Basic Payment Scheme applications must be made online either directly by the farmer himself (www.agriculture.gov.ie) or use an agent to undertake this work for you.

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