DAERA is likely to come forward with more details on the future shape of NI agricultural policy shortly after Easter, officials told MLAs on the Stormont Agriculture Committee last Thursday.
The new framework follows on from a ‘stakeholder engagement’ exercise conducted by the Department in 2018 that set out four desired outcomes for NI agriculture of:
It had been expected that DAERA would have published a new Agricultural Policy framework early in 2021, but it has been delayed due to EU exit taking priority.
In the meantime, legislation that will amend and simplify direct payments to farmers in 2021 is due to be debated by MLAs later this month, before coming into force from 1 March 2021.
The main changes were outlined by former DAERA Minister Edwin Poots last November, and include the removal of the greening payment and the introduction of a coupled payment for protein crops.
A new limit on the maximum number of Basic Payment Scheme entitlements that a young farmer or new entrant can receive from the regional reserve has been set at 90ha.
There is also a change to the overall cap on payments, which had been set at €150,000 for the BPS element of the claim. When the greening payment is added in, the cap up to now was actually around €215,500.
But with the greening payment incorporated into an overall BPS claim for each farm from 2021 onwards, the cap has been adjusted to £190,000.
Last November Minister Poots also confirmed that he has asked officials to review both the scope of cross compliance, and the associated penalties to ensure they are proportionate.
“That work is on-going in the Department. Minister Poots was very keen that we bring the outcomes of that work forward as quickly as is feasible” Dr Rosemary Agnew from DAERA told MLAs last week.