The European Commission has advised Ireland to bring a higher level of ambition to its proposed CAP strategic plan in the first comments it made on the plan.

Proposals for the schemes and rules applicable to the drystock sector from next year, as well as those impacting farmers on designated land, need further explanation or changes before the plan can be finalised by Brussels.

Suckler scheme

While the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Scheme was welcomed in the context of intending to reduce farming emissions, an invitation was given for Ireland to determine how it would gauge this objective.

To back-up these claims on the scheme’s potential, there was a request for Ireland to specify the emissions reduction achieved by its precursor suckler efficiency schemes – the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme-Sucklers (BEEP-S) and the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).

The Commission suggested that stocking rate intensity measures should be explored within the proposed suckler scheme.

Ireland has also been asked to justify how the Dairy Beef Welfare Scheme will actually achieve better animal welfare and lower the emissions of the dairy-beef sector.

Sheep scheme

The Sheep Welfare Scheme was put under the spotlight, with the Commission asking to be shown how the measures contained within the scheme will go above the standard management practices of Irish sheep farmers and also how it is proposed that the scheme will “concretely” improve animal welfare in flocks.

A justification has been sought on the proposal to have the scheme running on an annual contract basis, rather than a multi-year one, as is planned with other schemes.

Brussels also said that there is room in the plan to improve animal welfare in general, encouraging the Department to to propose measures that would allow sows, calves and laying hen to achieve the transition towards non-confined housing systems.

Designated land

Ireland was asked to consider introducing additional mandatory standards for farms located within Natura 2000 designated sites, as part of the plan’s efforts to address biodiversity loss and habitat protection.

Natura 2000 sites refer to both designations as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protected Areas (SPAs).

A better alignment has been sought between the various schemes proposed in the plan and the Prioritised Action Framework, which lays out a multi-year framework guiding improvements in the habitat quality of designated sites, as well as ensuring that all relevant sites receive designated status.

It was noted that the Department’s references to the EU Habitat Directive were “significantly less clear” than the plan’s mention of the emissions rules set by the EU.