Eco-schemes in the next CAP need to be open to all farmers and need to have a uniform payment per hectare, according to Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) president Colm O’Donnell.

The budget for eco-schemes has yet to be decided, but it will take between 20% and 30% of the funds from the direct payments section of the CAP.

Eco-schemes will be voluntary for farmers to apply for.

O’Donnell told the Irish Farmers Journal this week that there needs to be equal access to eco-schemes for all land and farm types, irrespective of historical payments.

“It’s important that all farmers, regardless of the land type or the commodity, are able to participate.

Currently, there’s enough to pay for every hectare of land that’s submitted

“That would be a fair way and [would ensure] that no money is left behind. It has to be the carrot approach,” he said.

O’Donnell also said that farmers shouldn’t be limited to a set amount of hectares in applying for eco-schemes, that both a farmer with 30ac and a farmer with 100ac should be allowed enter their land area submitted for direct payments.

“Currently, there’s enough to pay for every hectare of land that’s submitted. There’s enough in the budget, based on the amount of hectares that’s submitted for the BPS to give €79/ha for every hectare in the country that’s in the system.”


The INHFA has said that anyone with designated land (SAC, SPA, NHA) should automatically be eligible for the eco-scheme payment.

“We would be of the opinion that designated land should be in the scheme as an entry-level base line requirement, because of the additional costs associated with the notifiable actions [where farmers have to ask permission from the Department of Housing to carry out certain farming activities].

“All that land should be in there. It’s the highest nature value farmland in there,” O’Donnell said.

That’s a massive commitment to the environment

O’Donnell said that a potential measure would be for farmers to declare they will remain under a certain nitrates level, for example 100kg to 120kg N/ha.

“It could be something that would suit an extensive farming model. It’s an annual declaration that you are remaining under a certain nitrates level. That’s a massive commitment to the environment,” he said.

The eco-schemes and future flagship agri-environmental scheme should complement each other, the INHFA president said. “There needs to be an incentive to bring people in. It has to be simple and easy to achieve and attain, because if it’s not it will crucify any agri-environmental scheme as well,” he said.

Two weeks ago, the INHFA hit out at a Department modelling exercise on convergence which looked at entitlement values after 85% convergence was applied.

The INHFA has said that eco-schemes could deliver a payment of between €54/ha and €80/ha, depending on the budget for the schemes

The exercise did not include future eco-scheme payments and showed that a farmer with an entitlement of €160/ha would only rise to €161/ha, while a farmer with an entitlement worth €300/ha would fall to €200/ha and a farmer with a €400/ha entitlement would fall to €233/ha.

To not have an eco-scheme payment factored into the exercise distorted all the figures, Vincent Roddy INHFA director of organisation, told the Irish Farmers Journal.

The INHFA has said that eco-schemes could deliver a payment of between €54/ha and €80/ha, depending on the budget for the schemes.

O’Donnell has outlined what he maintained would be a more accurate assessment of the final figures under 85% convergence and an eco-scheme payment at 25%.

This, he stated, would see a farmer currently on a lower entitlement worth €160/ha increase to a total payment of €228/ha, a farmer with an entitlement worth €300/ha drop to €267/ha and farmer with an entitlement worth €400/ha drop to €300/ha.


The INHFA has also called for the Department of Agriculture to use the Complementary Redistributive Income Support for Sustainability (CRISS) measure available in the next CAP. This would provide for the movement of payments from bigger farmers to smaller- or medium-sized farmers and would operate in a similar fashion to the National Reserve.

“We’ve always been saying we need to protect farmers on smaller holdings,” O’Donnell said, “and the CRISS can help to do that and it will also protect the family farm model, even those that have low payments.”

In order to help fund the CRISS, the INHFA is calling for a limit of €60,000 on all Pillar I payments.

Key definitions in the next CAP

The INHFA has also set out how it would define a genuine farmer and agricultural activity under the next CAP.

Agricultural activity should be defined in a way that it contributes to the provision of “agricultural goods or public goods or the maintenance of an agricultural area in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation without a preparatory action going beyond usual agricultural methods”.

The INHFA has defined a genuine farmer as a “natural or legal person whose holding is situated within the territory of the member states and who exercises an agricultural activity on the agricultural areas at the disposal of the farmer not going beyond a two-year period”.

If they don’t exercise an agricultural activity for two years in succession, they are not a genuine farmer

It said that the leasing out of farmland is not an agricultural activity, that a farmer must farm the land.

“A farmer who doesn’t exercise an agricultural activity on the agricultural area of the holding at his/her disposal going beyond a two-year period should not be entitled to receive CAP direct income support.

“If they don’t exercise an agricultural activity for two years in succession, they are not a genuine farmer,” O’Donnell said.

Meanwhile, under GAEC 2, which is a new cross-compliance condition of the next CAP, Ireland will be required to protection carbon-rich soils such as wetlands and peatlands.

The INHFA has said the wording around any definition of this condition must say “the minimum protection of wetlands and peatlands shall ensure that these lands maintain their agricultural area status”.

O’Donnell said it is critical to have agricultural activity status in the GAEC wording.