Farmers now need to begin the ground work for their applications to all CAP schemes, according to Midleton-based Teagasc dairy adviser Brendan Smiddy.
“Like all new things, the level of knowledge at farm level is probably not as good as it would want to be at this stage," he said.
Smiddy acknowledged that there is a cohort of farmers who have attended CAP information meetings and events over the past year and who have read up on what it will mean for their farms but warned that all farmers now need to prepare for the new schemes.
The Teagasc adviser said that with a number of schemes commencing over the next few months, there is a concern that a combination of tight deadlines and heavy workload would put pressure on both farmers and their advisers.
He was speaking at the first of the Irish Farmers Journal CAP information series events in Cork on Tuesday night. Over 250 farmers were in attendance with representation from across the farm sectors and a significant number of young farmers present.
‘Work needs to begin now’
Brendan Smiddy said there is potentially a half day of work in some of the BISS applications especially if changes in space for nature were required or if there were a number of leases involved.
He said that for grassland farmers, particularly those with breeding stock, “the work needs to begin now in terms of what they need to do with eco schemes and tree planting”.
“Cows are going to be calving in February and March and breeding will be in May so the issue of the quick BPS is out the window. Farmers need to look at it now,” he said.
Smiddy’s comments were evidenced by a number of farmer questions from the floor at the event on Tuesday night.
Francis Morrin of the Department of Agriculture’s CAP entitlements and financial controls team told farmers present that “ACRES is open for business” and has schemes to suit all. He reminded farmers that to submit an ACRES application before the 21 November deadline, they have to work with an adviser now.
AIB agri-adviser for Cork and Waterford Michael Murphy outlined the importance of direct payments to support farm incomes, particularly across the beef and sheep sectors.
He told those in attendance that despite the challenges presented by rising farm income costs over the past year, farmer debt levels have been at the lowest level since 2003 and that overdraft utilisation by farmers is at its lowest point in some six years.
Murphy also highlighted that “record prices are being hit for land across the country”.
The AIB representative described how the focus for bankers working with farmers has pivoted to sustainability. He said that in terms of providing credit, bankers are looking to see farmers “putting the shoulder to the wheel” on initiatives to improve their farm’s environmental sustainability.
The next Irish Farmers Journal CAP information event takes place in the Dolmen Hotel, Co Carlow on Thursday, 3 November with events in Tuam, Co Galway and Cootehill, Co Cavan to follow on the 9 and 15 November respectively. Readers can register here.