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New Greening rules will go ahead, warns Department

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Colm Fingleton and members of the Ratheniska action group a recent protest

Colm Fingleton and members of the Ratheniska action group a recent protest

Tom Burke

Colm Fingleton and members of the Ratheniska action group a recent protest

A senior Department of Agriculture source has indicated there will be no deferral of the crop diversification requirement introduced as part of the Greening element of CAP reforms.

The new CAP package comes into effect from 2015 onwards and the Department official, who did not want to be named, said any delay in introducing the programme could endanger Ireland's direct payments.

"It has to go ahead. Otherwise the country would lose out on its €364m Greening payment next year," he pointed out.

He added that it was extremely unlikely that such a move would even be considered at EU level as Greening is a key element of the new CAP regime. "Any deferment of its introduction could undermine the entire, hard-fought, agreement," he said.

It is anticipated that from mid-October the Department's online system will allow farmers to review both their Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) and Greening status.

The system will be based on Ordnance Survey data and it will be up to farmers to check that the maps are an accurate record of the current situation on the ground or notify any changes in the period since the maps were produced.

Carlow-based agricultural consultant Pat Minnock said farmers are still awaiting clarification on a number of issues in relation to Greening, including the definition of a hedgerow in the context of EFAs.

"They really need to know now as they have started to sow now. It may be too late for some farmers by the time the spring comes around. The lack of clarity means that a lot of farmers could inadvertently be caught out. It would be unreasonable to hold anyone accountable for failing to comply with rules that have not yet been finalised," he said.

Tom Bryan of Boormalt has confirmed that the company will accept spring varieties of barley sown in the autumn as part of their malting contract.

The Department has also agreed that this can qualify as a separate crop for meeting a farmer's Greening obligations.

An estimated 4,500 of our 19,000 tillage farmers will be affected by the crop diversification element of Greening.

One farmer who will be badly hit is Colm Fingleton, in Ratheniska, Co Laois.

He is a substantial all-malt grower except for 20ac of forestry, which he will not be able to use to meet his EFA requirements as it was planted before 2008.

"Our land is very suitable for malting barley, but I am caught out by the three-crop rule. As things stand, I will probably lose 30pc of my malting contract," he said.

One option would be to grow milling wheat but contracts take years to build up and he now fears that he will be forced into growing more feed barley.

"No dairy farmer is being told that he has to have pigs or hens. We should be trying to get into higher-end markets instead of shoving us into an already crowded feed market."

Mr Fingleton said farmers were confused and didn't know where to go for advice. He claimed the Greening measures should be postponed until GLAS was in place.

Tillage farmers are to be given priority access to GLAS but there is no firm indication as to when the scheme will be rolled out.

Indo Farming