Over 200 farmers from Kerry and surrounding counties had plenty of queries for the Department of Agriculture officials at the last of the Irish Farmers Journal series of information meetings.

Q: Will the BISS payment be paid out in October as usual?

A: “The payment schedule will be more or less as it is now, but exactly what gets paid when, that’s not 100% defined yet.”

How long can you rent out entitlements without clawback?

“You can rent them out as long as you like, but bear in mind we don’t know what is there from 2028 onward.”

If I’m leasing out my farm with entitlements next year, what is my situation?

“You can lease them out, but know that the value of those entitlements will change. You can use the CAP calculator to get a good idea of what the payments will be in those years. The next CAP goes from 2023 to 2027 and we don’t know what’s happening beyond 2028, so for longer-term leases over five years, you need to make sure that there is flexibility in the lease to cope with whatever structures change in direct payments from 2028 and beyond.”

Given the pressure that farmers are coming under with stocking rates and nitrates, was stacking ever considered for entitlements?

“No, there’s no stacking and there won’t be for the next CAP. It hasn’t been there for the current CAP either.

“Stacking meant you had few, but higher-value, entitlements and they will only be converging down anyway, so there is no benefit in it.”

Does existing forestry qualify as Space for Nature?

“Eligible forestry that is planted since 2009 and that draws down a BPS payment, will receive a per-hectare eco-scheme payment.

“Ineligible forestry, which is forestry planted before 2008, won’t receive a per-ha eco-scheme payment.”

Will there be an eco-scheme payment on scrub land that was taken out before?

“For example, if you had a hectare of land and there was scrub on it, we drew a red line around it and took it off. Now, the European Commission recognises there is an environmental value to this scrub. Now, if you have a hectare of land and assuming you have farming activity on it, if there is up to 50% of that parcel scrub, the eligible area is still a hectare.

“If it goes between 50% and 70%, the scrub is deducted as it is in the current model. Once it goes above 70%, the entire parcel is ineligible. Once it goes above 70%, there is no eco payment, but the area is included in the Space for Nature.

In the new suckler scheme you have to be in Bord Bia – why?

“In the BDGP scheme there was a carbon navigator and the calibre of information back wasn’t great as part of negotiations with the Commission around the requirements we were going to have, such as the weighing and genotyping.

“Part of what the Commission wanted in it is a requirement for the farmer at the time of application to be in the Bord Bia Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS).

“Farmers have to be in it to get in and then they have to stay in it for the duration of the scheme.”

All these schemes are for producing less food - will there be more schemes paying people for producing food in future?

“CAP is a juggernaut – it takes a long time to turn it around.

“There is a big influence on food security at the moment, COVID-19 actually played into that and protected the CAP budget when discussions were taking place in 2020 and staved off a significant cut at that time.

“Food security particularly in the context of the war [in Ukraine] has turned people’s heads. Other than things like the Fodder Incentive Scheme, it’s not going to change CAP now, but possibly will in future CAP discussions.

“The framing of the next CAP will start in about two years’ time. They will poll taxpayers all across Europe as to what they want to see included. Last time around, the environment was the big-ticket item and hence now you see eco schemes and ACRES.”