Farmers could be paid to leave 5% or more of their land lying fallow and for extensive livestock production under eco schemes in the next CAP.

Some 25% of the current direct payment envelope (€297m/year) will go to eco-schemes and farmers will have to carry out measures to avail of this money.

The scheme will include actions that mitigate and adapt to climate change, protect or improve water quality, prevent soil degradation, protect biodiversity, cut pesticide use and enhance animal welfare.

Eco-scheme measures under consideration already by the Department of Agriculture include:

  • Farmers committing to devoting more of their land to non-productive areas and features than is required under GAEC 9. This could see farmers dedicate over and above the 5% minimum share of farm land already required to non-productive features or;
  • Catch crops or nitrogen fixing crops, cultivated without plant protection products. Non-productive features could see land lying fallow, certain forestry and buffer strips.
  • High nature value actions, such as extensive livestock production, where farmers maintain a low stocking rate.
  • Hedgerow management and reduced input of chemical nitrogen, are also under consideration.

    Payments for rushes and scrub

    Farmers will be able to claim payments for rushes and other scrubland in the next CAP.

    The Department has proposed that rushes be included under permanent grassland in the next CAP, which will be defined under agricultural area.

    Agricultural area is divided into “arable land”, “permanent crops” and “permanent grassland”.

    These categories then make up an eligible hectare and from 1 January 2023, the Department has proposed that 30% of a parcel can include scrubland.

    This will mean that farmers can retain this land as scrub or rushes and will not be penalised for removing these features.

    Up to 55,000ha is likely to become eligible for payments under the proposal.