AEOS soil test scrapped for commonage and hills
IN an important change the Department of Agriculture has eased the soil testing requirements for farmers who applied in 2011 to AEOS 2. In Circular 1/2012, sent out recently, it announced that commonage will not have to be tested. Neither will private mountain land and rough grazing land provided it is not fertilised.
This is a welcome change from the earlier terms and conditions of the 2011 scheme which required that all land in the holdings of applicants be tested. That concerned planners and farmers who felt that soil testing commonage and private mountain land would be a difficult and expensive task. They argued that:
•It would be physically difficult to take soil samples as much of this land is bog or rocky.
•Much of this land is extensively farmed and does not receive fertiliser.
•The cost of testing such land would be prohibitive in view of the reduced annual payment ceiling in the 2011 AEOS scheme. It was reduced to by 20% to €4,000 compared to the 2010 scheme.
Planners lobbied on the issue in 2010 and the Department has now moved to accommodate their concerns. Only where fertiliser is applied will a parcel of private mountain or of rough grazing now have to be tested. But the decision comes too late for farmers who have already had soil tests carried out and just weeks ahead of the deadline for testing.
Under the amended scheme conditions:
•All land declared for Single Payment Scheme in 2011 must be soil tested according to the 2010 Nitrates Regulations.
•Testing must be done before 31 March 2012 provided the land is being farmed in 2012 and the applicant has been accepted into the AEOS 2 scheme.
•A soil test carried out on or after 1 January 2010 will meet the requirement for 2011 applicants.
•Any commonage land is excluded from this requirement.
The Circular goes on to state that full LPIS parcels of privately owned mountain type land and rough grazing will also be exempted provided that
•The applicant signs and submits Form SS declaring that the exempted land will receive no applications of organic or chemical fertilisers for the duration of the AEOS 2 contract.
•It must be co-signed by a planner who is registered under the Farm Advisory System (FAS)
•Closing date for receipt of the declaration is 30 April, 2012.
•No declaration is needed for Commonage land.
For cross compliance purposes all exempted land will be assumed to be at phosphorus Index 4. Rough grazing is defined as land that cannot receive chemical or organic fertiliser by mechanical means.
The Circular warns that any farmer availing of the exemption and then found to be in breach of his declaration shall be excluded from the Scheme and payments already received shall be recouped.
Form SS is used by farmers to declare that they have carried out sampling on eligible land and to avail of the exemption on privately owned mountain land and rough grazing, where applicable.
The amendment to the scheme may still leave a problem for some farmers if they have large parcels of mountain or rough grazing land only part of which ever receives fertiliser. The above exemption applies only on a whole parcel basis.