There has been a lot of reaction to the proposed eco schemes in the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP 2023-2027).

Under the proposals, farmers will have to comply with two out of eight measures in order to access 25% of their direct payments.

However, the percentage of farmers' direct payments which are dependent on eco scheme participation is likely to increase further in subsequent CAPs, according to the Department of Agriculture.

“There is no way that there’s going to be less environmental ambition when we get around to the next CAP after this one at the end of the decade,” said Francis Morrin of the Department’s CAP entitlements division, speaking at the ITLUS winter conference this week.

“They went out and surveyed people all around Europe to see what they wanted their tax dollars to be spent on. The environment was one of the huge things which came back in the survey,” he continued.

“If eco schemes are 25% now, you can imagine that they will be 30% or 40% or maybe more in five or six years’ time,” he said.

Reducing the percentage

When asked if the Minister for Agriculture could reduce the percentage of farmers' direct payments which depend on eco scheme participation in the new CAP, Morrin said he could.

“The reason why it could be reduced is due to a system called the rebate system which allows you to offset some of the spend in Pillar II against the eco schemes in Pillar I,” he said.

However, he advised against doing this.

“Yes there is an allowance to reduce it, but the expectation is 25%. If we reduce that further, down to 22% or 21%, we would still be asking farmers to do the same amount of things [measures] which they are being asked to do now. So you’d be getting less value,” said Morrin.

He said that if all eligible land takes part in the scheme, they are forecasting a payment of about €65/ha. He said if you reduce this by 5%, this will reduce the value of the payment to closer to €50/ha for the same amount of work.