It is that time of year again - time to complete your 2017 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application. And if you have (or are considering) a forest enterprise on the farm then make sure you understand how BPS interacts with forestry as BPS regulations are complex.
By adhering to strict criteria, many applicants can continue receiving entitlements on the afforested land.
This means in a nutshell that if eligible land was declared in an SPS application in 2008 and which was afforested in any year since 2009 or which is planted this year, it can continue to be eligible for a BPS payment in 2017 provided it satisfies a number of conditions.
I will try to explain the main criteria you will need to adhere to in a bit more detail below.
First of all, if you are to retain your BPS on the land, it is important to point out that the land to be planted was declared on a 2008 SPS application form and that you (the applicant) who declared that land on a 2008 SPS application form were paid under the 2008 Single Payment Scheme. In addition, the land you planted (or you hope to plant) in 2017 was eligible to draw down an SPS payment in 2008.
In order to continue to be regarded as an active farmer for the purpose of retaining eligibility for BPS, you must retain at least 10pc of the eligible hectares declared in 2008 (by you or your predecessor) in an agricultural activity, subject to a minimum area of three hectares.
I would strongly advise not to cut it too fine and to remain well above the minimum area required as I am aware of a few cases where the farmer ended up with an agricultural area just below the minimum area required.
If you are a new entrant to farming, then the minimum area to be retained in an agricultural activity will be fixed by the Department on a case by case basis.
Planted land must continue to meet all requirements of the relevant Forest Service scheme under which it was afforested.
Eligible forestry parcels declared on a BPS application to activate entitlements are subject to cross-compliance requirements.
The above is explained in a lot more detail on the Teagasc Forestry website: www.teagasc.ie/forestry.
BPS regulations are complex so it is essential to do your homework carefully when considering forestry. Forestry can be a great alternative farm enterprise. Keep in mind, though, that it is a one way street. Prior to committing yourself, you need to check out all the pros and cons and see if it suits you.
And finally, don't forget that the closing date for the BPS this year is Monday, May 15. Don't leave it until the last minute, do it now.
Steven Meyen is a Teagasc forestry advisor email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are in receipt of a forest establishment grant, then you are required to declare all those land parcels on your 2017 BPS application form.
Failure to declare grant-aided afforested parcels on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine's land parcel identification system (LPIS) could affect future forestry grant/premium payments.
So, how do you fill out your BPS application form?
If you planted a forest before 2009, you should declare the land as Forestry under 'Parcel Use'.
If you planted a forest between 2009 and 2016, you should declare the land as Forestry Eligible.
If you plant a grant-aided forest in 2017 before submitting your application, you should declare the land as Forestry 2017.
However, if you hope to plant later this year but haven't done so yet at the time of your BPS application, then it is essential that you declare the correct current parcel use. If such a parcel is planted after the date of your BPS application then an amendment form must be submitted. In that case, you can put Forestry 2017 under 'Parcel Use' on the amendment form.
The table above provides a summary of the BPS application requirements for applicants with forest parcels which will vary according to the time of their forest establishment.
The above information will allow you to get your BPS application in to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in very good time.
Teagasc in association with the Forest Service (DAFM) are organising a nationwide series of forest walks from April 17-27 focusing on the management of young forests.
At these events, forestry experts from Teagasc and the Forest Service will explain why it is essential to care for young forests.
New forests require several years of active management to become well established. If a plantation is not well maintained, future revenues are likely to be compromised.
It is therefore very important to ensure that the young forest will perform well and that budding forest owners know what needs to be done each year.
This is also true if the management of the forest has been subcontracted out for the first four years. After all, it is the owner who will benefit financially from well-looked-after trees.
Another good reason to care for young forests is that the payment of the second instalment of the Afforestation Scheme (four-year maintenance grant) and forestry premium is subject to the forest successfully achieving certain standards.
Focus in the first few years will be on controlling the surrounding vegetation, ensuring that browsing animals won't damage the young trees, replanting of failed trees, assessing nutrient needs, shaping of broadleaf trees and reducing the risk of fires.
This nationwide series of forest walks is aimed at landowners who have established a new forest in the last ten years. Landowners who are considering planting some land will also find these events very useful.
The aim of these walks is to provide guidance to forest owners.
Forest owners need to take an active role in the management of their forests to maximise future timber revenue.
Full details of these upcoming walks can be found on www.teagasc.ie/forestry and in national and local press.