EU visitors learn from Wicklow local scheme
The Sustainable Uplands Agriculture-environment Scheme (SUAS) inspired visitors from all over Europe this week.

The SUAS project hosted a field trip for a delegation of 60 participants from 22 EU countries in the Wicklow and Dublin uplands on Tuesday.

The visit was part of a showcase of Irish pilot projects funded by the EU's European Innovation Partnership (EIP) initiative. Among over 1,000 EIP projects in Europe, 23 are in Ireland, including the €1.95m SUAS. Their number is expected to rise to 3,000 in the next two years, with further developments likely in the next CAP period.

Commonage groups

The SUAS project team showed visitors how they are working with local farmers and commonage groups to address the agricultural, environmental and socio-economic issues in the Wicklow and Dublin uplands.

The role of project ecologist Faith Wilson is to conduct ecological and water assessments to sugggest measures farmers can choose from to improve natural habitats. Payments for actions such as vegetation removal, increased shepherding or livestock infrastructure will be available.

An auction-based system also encourages farmers to seek support for actions solving problems they have identified themselves. Measures envisaged here include signage for archaeological sites, heather restoration, temporary fencing to protect rare species and bracken control.

Our project may now form part of discussions with our European colleagues

“It was a wonderful opportunity for the SUAS operational group to highlight the complex workings of the project with such a diverse and notable number of representatives,” said SUAS project manager Declan Byrne. “We are grateful that many new friendships were formed and that our project may now form part of discussions with our European colleagues.”

Leading the EU delegation, Inge Van Oost, policy officer at the European Commission's Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “The meeting in Ireland was an absolute success, with many of our participants very enthusiastic about the EIP operational groups they saw and heard about during the visit. It was nice to learn more about the SUAS Project from the group leading it and to observe the upland region where its impact will be felt”.

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Over 40,000 weights recorded under BEEP scheme
Suckler cow and calf weighing continues with more scales becoming available for the €20m scheme.

The number of animals weighed as part of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme has now topped 40,000, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has said.

Weighing started on 8 March and 10,000 records have been added in the past three weeks.

The number of scales available to farmers has increased, with over 2,000 privately owned scales now registered with the Department of Agriculture.

"Last week, I welcomed the start of the roll-out of rental scales to over 70 ICOS-affiliated livestock marts and co-ops across the country. This will see some 400 sets of scales being made available to rent from these locations," said Minister Creed.

The €20m scheme will pay farmers up to €40 per calf weighed along with their dam after weights are sent to the ICBF.

The minister provided the information in reply to a parliamentary question from independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath this week.

Aim beef compensation at genuine farmers, Tipperary IFA meeting told
How to split up the €100m Brexit beef fund was the main focus of discussion at the North Tipperary IFA meeting in Nenagh on Tuesday night.

“Factories can’t get it, factory feedlots can’t get it, factory agents or dealers buying finished cattle in marts shouldn’t get part of it – this fund is aimed at genuine farmers, the finishers and suckler farmers, and this is who we represent,” IFA treasurer Tim Cullinan told the North Tipp IFA meeting in Nenagh on Tuesday night.

IFA North Tipperary chair Imelda Walsh, IFA treasurer Tim Cullinan and Cork Central IFA chair Harold Kingston were all in agreement on who can’t get part of the €100m. Who exactly should get compensation is to be discussed at IFA national council (the organisation's governing body) next week.

The fund is not going to be able to satisfy everyone. It will have to be looked at primarily as a finished beef price disturbance fund, so that means finished animals

A €100m fund (€50m from the EU and €50m from the Irish Government) was announced in the last week as part of a campaign started by IFA after the UK voted to leave the EU. Baseline figures on losses to farmers were calculated on 2015 slaughter data.

Capping compensation

At the meeting in Nenagh, farmers pointed out that if the compo fund is spread too thinly, it will be no good to anyone. Some farmers put forward the case for capping the compensation to a certain number of animals per farm or maybe directing it at farms with smaller basic payments. A number of farmers suggested store and weanling producers also suffered so they need to be looked at.

Harold Kingston said: “The fund is not going to be able to satisfy everyone. It will have to be looked at primarily as a finished beef price disturbance fund, so that means finished animals. The €50m funded by the Irish Government might have more flexibility and that maybe can be targeted more towards suckler farmers.”

Speaking on Monday, European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said how the €100m Brexit beef fund will be distributed will be a decision for the Minister for Agriculture and the beef industry.

He said: “We didn’t launch the inter-service consultation within the Commission yet, which we will launch this week. Therefore, it will be a matter for Minister Creed to sit down with the beef sector to work out how it’s going to be paid.”

Burnout

Also at the meeting, Harold Kingston outlined his struggles with burnout as previously very well described in the Irish Farmers Journal and subsequently on the Late Late Show.

Galway IFA chair Anne Mitchell also gave a very good summary of pensions and the Fair Deal scheme. One of her key points was that if a person was still paying into a pension and approaching pension age then they should check out what they might be due before reaching pension age. She was clear there are potentially some small changes that can be made that can make a big difference in terms of payout.

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Farm Finance: deadline of 31 May for BPS amendments
Late amendments after 31 May regarding the addition of parcels/plots or amendments to claimed areas will be subject to penalties.

According to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, 129,000 applications were submitted online for the 2019 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

The figure is similar to previous years, with just shy of 8,000 applications submitted in the 24 hours before Wednesday’s midnight deadline. There were also 21,140 transfer of entitlement applications submitted.

Attention has now turned to BPS amendments, with the Department advising applicants to make necessary changes before the 31 May deadline, after which stage penalties may arise. Where amendments concern the addition of parcels/plots or a change to an incorrectly claimed area, then this must be submitted via the online system by the 31 May deadline.

Late amendments with additional parcels/plots or amended claimed areas will be accepted up to and including 9 June 2019, but payment on the parcel(s) concerned will be reduced by 1% for each working day in this period that the amendment is late.

The terms and conditions of the scheme add that an applicant may withdraw land, reduce the claimed area of a parcel or change its use from eligible to ineligible (for example, the transfer of a house site) without incurring a penalty at any time after the 31 May 2019 deadline, provided the following aspects have been met:

  • The Department has not notified you about any issues concerning your 2019 BPS application.
  • You have not been notified of an on-the-spot inspection.
  • An on-the-spot inspection does not reveal any non-compliances for the parcel(s) concerned.
  • You have not been either fully or partially paid under the BPS in respect of 2019.
  • In addition, it is permitted to correct obvious or innocent errors at any time after the 31 May 2019 closing date for amendments.

    The declared use of a crop can also be changed, provided the original crop was eligible for payment. The Department states that each request to correct an obvious or innocent error will be considered on its individual merit.

    You may also change a declared crop use, provided that the original crop was eligible for payment.

    You are not entitled to alter the crop use from an ineligible to an eligible crop.

    In the case of all amendment options listed above, amendments will not be authorised where the Department has:

  • Already informed you of irregularities in the application; or
  • Given notice of its intention to carry out an on-the-spot inspection; or
  • Where an on-the-spot inspection reveals irregularities.