Some 70 farmers in the Owenduff/Nephin complex SAC in Co Mayo are sought to take part in the Wild Atlantic Nature pilot project for 2021.
Wild Atlantic Nature is a nine-year project aimed at improving the conservation status of blanket bog and it will focus on Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo and Galway. Results-based payments for farmers will be part of the the project and the pilot will run until 2022.
The project will then be extended to other project blanket bog SACs in 2022.
Farmers will be paid for environmental services such as biodiversity, water quality and carbon storage and sequestration - and payments under the scheme will be linked to habitat quality.
The higher the quality of the habitat, the higher the payment the farmer receives.
All participating land in the project, both private and commonage, will be divided into plots, which will each receive a habitat score annually of 0 to 10, depending on environmental quality, which determines the payment levels.
There will be three payments streams in the project:
Results-based payments will be based on the result of the habitat quality assessment adjusted for the whole-farm assessment result.
Floodplain payment will reward farmers for maintaining active floodplains on their land adjacent to important river habitats. Payment rates vary according to habitat quality, as indicated by average habitat quality score along those watercourses.
Supporting actions payments will be available for selected measures completed by the farmer aimed at improving habitat quality and reducing risk of impacts to the environment.
In addition, in 2021 and 2022, knowledge-exchange groups will be piloted, with approximately 20 farmers in each demonstration area.
Payment rates and example
The project team has said that due to the nature of the project as a pilot initiative with a limited budget, it is hoped to engage as many farmers as possible to demonstrate how the RBPS approach works and provide farmers with practical experience of RBPS.
A minimum payment will be set at €800 per annum for participation in the pilot.
This means that a supplementary payment will be made to participants receiving a results-based payment of less than €800.
In order to calculate the final results-based payment, the total of the habitat quality payment plus any floodplain payment is adjusted according to the whole-farm assessment result.
Most farms or commonages can progressively increase their environmental score and associated payment over the lifetime of the RBPS pilot.
For commonage lands, the total results-based payment will be divided among the shareholders proportional to their shareholding in the commonage.
Habitat quality payment rates
Floodplain payment rate
Whole-farm assessment result
The Wild Atlantic Nature project team has set out an example of the payment a farmer could receive for taking part in the scheme.
The farmer is a mixed livestock farmer, with no floodplain on the land and he/she farms 60ha.
All farm plots are ranked according to field score in increasing order, with the first 30ha in band A and subsequent areas in bands B and C.
As Table 4 shows, the farmer received a total habitat quality payment of €4,070.
He does not have a floodplain, so no payment is available to him/her for this measure.
The farmer’s whole-farm score is ‘good’, which means he receives 100% of the results-based payment - €4,070.
How to apply
Farmers can apply to the pilot project by submitting an expression of interest form, which can be found on www.wildatlanticnature.ie and the closing date for expressions of interest is 10 June 2021.
For each Wild Atlantic Nature operational area, applicants will be ranked by the project team according to the criteria outlined below, for both private lands and commonage lands.
Categories proposed, regarding the characteristics of lands, include:
Speaking about the launch of the scheme, project manager Dr Derek McLoughlin says: “We see this as an exciting opportunity for farmers to gain first-hand experience of how results-based approaches work.
“It is hoped that the results of the pilot can be used to inform future agri-environmental schemes, including the Common Agricultural Policy,” he said.