A pilot farm environmental study (FES) is to be rolled out next year and will generate a database of baseline habitat and biodiversity data at farm level.
The Department of Agriculture aims to survey 8,000 farms in the second quarter of next year and farmers will be paid €200 for participating in the survey.
The survey will provide the farmer with an inventory of habitats, biodiversity and environmental information about his/her own farm.
The Department said that this information will then be presented to the farmer as part of the knowledge transfer element in order to educate and empower the farmer to farm in a way that is sensitive to nature on the individual farm.
It will provide the scope for a comprehensive analysis of farm habitats and biodiversity and a baseline for future targeting of agri-environmental schemes and measures.
As part of the survey, an environmental training programme for advisers will be rolled out to up-skill them.
This will also ensure that capacity is built for greater level of environmental ambition required in other future agri-environment climate measures, the Department said.
“Advisers will receive habitat and biodiversity training, as well as updated IT and mapping skills, which will be transferrable to other schemes. Farm adviser payment is estimated at a minimum of €300,” it said.
Building a baseline
Commenting on the survey, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the pilot FES is one of the important first steps taken to the building of a baseline biodiversity survey as identified in the programme for government.
“Knowing just what important biodiversity resources we have on our farms is essential going forward.
“Supporting our farmers to actively conduct their important work, while being aware how significantly these resources can benefit the quality of their produce, while also benefitting the environment, will play a critical role in our steps towards a circular economy,” he said.
Minister of State Senator Pippa Hackett said that the pilot is a new and exciting initiative.
“Its establishment of the unique biodiversity features and habitats present at the farm level will be invaluable.
"This farm-scale approach will educate and empower farmers, and build on their knowledge of their own land so that they can maximise delivery of environmental outcomes for future schemes,” she said.