Is your land eligible for BPS?
To draw down payment in respect of your BPS entitlements, you must have an eligible hectare to accompany each entitlement.
A hectare is eligible, provided an agricultural activity is carried out on it, such as growing crops, grazing animals or adhering to the requirements of a scheme (e.g. wild-bird cover in GLAS). Farmers are obliged to declare all lands on their holding, including afforested land, owned, rented-in and leased-in land.
Mountain and hill land is eligible provided it is kept in an eligible state by grazing it with adequate stock numbers. Commonage is eligible also, with the majority of commonages assigned a commonage adviser.
The commonage advisors, in most cases, have completed a Commonage Management Plan, which farmers in the GLAS Scheme have signed up to.
This management plan outlines the management practices for the commonage shareholders, such as minimum and maximum stocking rates for the commonage and each individual farmer.
Burning, overgrazing/under-grazing, soil erosion and other activities require consent. Bogland, whether used for turf production or not, is not eligible. Blanket bog that is used for agricultural purposes continues to be eligible.
Areas of agricultural land may no longer be eligible due to scrub encroachment. Appropriate deductions must be made to claimed areas where sections of a land parcel are ineligible.
The eligibility of land with rushes is a concern for farmers. Land with rushes will remain eligible for BPS once rushes are controlled by grazing animals, spot spraying, reseeding or mechanical means such as mowing or topping.
However, if rushes are not controlled, they will proliferate and dominate the sward. This will result in the loss of grazing areas where animals no longer access them. Where this is the case, the land must be deducted, or a percentage reduction applied to account for this area of the parcel.
It is important to walk the farm, identify areas with high density of rushes and scrub encroachment, and carry out management practices so that these areas remain eligible for BPS.
Low, immature heather is an edible species grazed by mountain sheep, and is eligible land. Tall, woody heather which is no longer being accessed by animals is not eligible.
Ferns or bracken are inedible to cattle and sheep. They emerge annually in early summer and start to die off when the first frosts arrive in autumn. Where ferns have grass underneath, it will result in the land being in a grazable state. Consequently, the area is eligible for BPS declaration.
Ferns with no grass underneath will not be grazable by animals and is therefore not eligible and the area must be deducted in full.
Farmyards; concreted or gravelled areas; farm roadways; ponds; rivers and streams are ineligible and must be marked for exclusion on the BPS application map. Hedges, ditches and open drains are designated as landscape features for the purposes of the basic payment scheme under the good agricultural and environmental condition of cross compliance.
This means all areas designated as landscape features are eligible for payment under the BPS and should not be excluded on maps or deducted in the claimed area on the BPS Application.
Where land has been burned between March 1 and August 31, it is not in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation and, therefore, is not eligible for the remainder of the year. However, there are exceptions if prior approval is sought from the NPWS for burning on Natura lands, such as lands designated as SAC or SPA.
It is important to take time to study the BPS maps, walk the farm and identify ineligible areas. Only declare eligible areas of land in your 2019 BPS Application to avoid inspections and penalties to your payments.
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