A pilot agri-environmental scheme focused on farmland pollinators is paying 40 farmers for how pollinator-friendly their farms are.
The Protecting Farmland Pollinators Project has just completed its first year.
Farmers are paid based on their whole farm pollinator score, up to a maximum of €4,000.
In total, €63,210 was paid out in year one, an average of €1,580 per farmer.
These scorecard-based schemes are being considered for wider roll-out in the next CAP, and will form the basis of the upcoming REPS 2 pilot.
Tillage farmers will be doing things differently to beef and dairy and the scorecard recognises that
Project manager Dr Saorla Kavanagh believes the model has huge potential to deliver for farmers.
“We have 40 farms in the project, 10 dairy, 10 beef, 10 tillage, and 10 mixed, so there’s something in it for everyone. Where farmers pick up their scores depends on the farm type.
“Tillage farmers will be doing things differently to beef and dairy and the scorecard recognises that.”
Kavanagh explained that having a mix of farms with differing levels of production intensities was important to show that the project could be applied on a national scale.
“What’s really important is that we’re working with farmers to come up with solutions to help pollinators. It’s all about choice. Farmers can choose how much or how little they want to do. That’s why there’s buy-in, because they don’t feel forced.”
The scorecard assesses farms in three areas – the provision of food, shelter and safety for pollinators.
For example, farmers are scored based on the metres of flowering hedgerows on the farm, or the number of pollinator-friendly trees there are. The scheme provides recognition for existing features on the farm, as well as an incentive to improve them.
“You can see how much green stuff is coming down the line. My hope is that this project will feed into future environmental schemes.
“I’ve been in REPS, and I’ve been in GLAS, more for financial reasons than any anything else.
If you support people and if they feel what they’re doing is useful, then you’ll get more out of it
“There’s lots of frustrating things about them but there were some good things too. The shining examples for me were cover crops and grass margins. They were easy options and it took the stigma away from it when you were paid to do it.
“If you support people and if they feel what they’re doing is useful, then you’ll get more out of it.
Putting a value on these things has a catalyst effect
“Say in the next CAP where they’re talking about taking 20% or 30% of our payment off us, if we don’t comply with certain measures, I think you turn people against you with that approach.
“With the scorecard there’s a menu of things you can do. It helps to get farmers involved.
“Putting a value on these things has a catalyst effect – by saying ‘hang on; if I had a few more of these trees it’s worth a couple of hundred euro to me’.
“I’m not doing anything that’s compromising my margin but I’m delivering for pollinators as well.”