Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has refused to back down on his plan to allocate 25% of Pillar I payments to fund eco schemes in the CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027.

The minister has said he will ensure further consultation on CAP but refused to give a commitment to IFA president Tim Cullinan and farmer members that he will review the 25% funding figure.

In Tullow on Thursday, he said: “All farm organisations, bar IFA, suggested 25%. There will be further engagement around this.

“My key objective is to ensure that all farming types... to ensure that everyone can get in and keep compliance costs to a minimum.

“There’s going to be a consultation and that point can be made.”

Suite of measures

The minister has committed to review the suite of measures currently on the table.

Intensively stocked farmers, including a large cohort of tillage and dairy farmers, have voiced concern that the proposed measures do not offer enough realistic options.

The measure regarding the use of a GPS fertiliser spreader has also been singled out as requiring an excessive level of investment that cannot be justified by the potential eco-scheme payment.

The five measures proposed are:

  • Non-productive areas and landscape features: this measure would see farmers devote an increased proportion of land to non-productive areas and features above the baseline required under Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) 9 (currently 4% for tillage farmers). A figure of 7% has been flagged on a number of occasions. Eligible areas will also include ecological focus areas such as buffer strips, hedgerows, etc. The figure for the previous year will be used to denote compliance for the current year.
  • Extensive livestock production: a farm’s stocking rate will dictate if farmers can comply with this measure as it will be based on the previous year. The stocking rate figure cropping up is 92kg of organic nitrogen per hectare.
  • Limiting chemical nitrogen input: this measure proposes to limit the specified chemical nitrogen allowance for the calendar year at 73kg N/ha. It will have the greatest effect on dairy and tillage farmers, with National Farm Survey data showing the average chemical fertiliser input of dairy farms at 84kg/ha.
  • Planting of native trees: the initial figure proposed was a requirement to plant two trees for every eligible hectare declared on an applicant’s Basic Payment Scheme. Recent discussions are at a figure of three trees/ha, meaning a 40ha farm would need to plant 120 trees annually. Farmers with large areas of conacre ground are voicing concern at this measure.
  • Use of GPS-controlled fertiliser spreader to apply chemical fertilisers: the revelation that contractors can be used to apply fertiliser using a GPS-controlled spreader has done little to improve the attractiveness of this measure, with the cost of a spreader seen as prohibitive for most to select this option.