Eligibility changes to slash SPS payments
Thousands of farmers are facing reduced agri-environment payments because of changes to what is considered eligible land under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS).
Up to 50pc of some upland commonages have been excluded from SPS calculations because the areas were classed as 'under-grazed' by Department of Agriculture inspectors using EU guidelines.
Because farmers can usually stack or consolidate their SPS entitlements, the new designations do not affect the single farm payments in most cases.
However, because agri-environment payments can only be paid on lands which are deemed eligible under the SPS, the changes cut the acreage that those entering the new Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) can apply on.
The problems emerged during a recent Teagasc Biodiversity Conference in Wexford.
Commonages with growth that is more than shin deep have been deemed to be 'under-grazed' by Department inspectors and therefore ineligible ground, the conference was told.
While the average reduction is 7pc, some farmers on Donegal's Fanid peninsula face reductions of 50pc in their eligible comonage area.