Land that is not suitable for grazing livestock or cropping could be eligible for farm support payments in the future, the Irish Farmers Journal has learned.
At present, only land that is used for “agricultural activity” and considered to be in “good agricultural and environmental condition” can be used for claiming area-based payments.
However, a new review into land eligibility rules in NI is looking at the environmental benefit of all types of vegetation and whether farmers should be able to claim payments on land that is currently deemed ineligible.
Land eligibility requirements will remain the same for the 2021 scheme year
Sources indicate that this includes the likes of ungrazed bogland and areas of overgrown bushes.
A spokesperson for DAERA confirmed that revised land eligibility rules will not be in place for the 2021 Single Application Form, which is due to be submitted in May.
“Land eligibility requirements will remain the same for the 2021 scheme year,” the spokesperson confirmed.
The argument for relaxing land eligibility rules for 2022 onwards is based around the ability of bushes, trees and bogland to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere. Certain types of land that are not actively farmed can also have a role in increasing biodiversity and improving water quality.
The ongoing review is a far cry from the early 2010s, when the European Commission forced DAERA to clamp down on farmers claiming ineligible land. In 2011 alone, over 44,000 acres was taken off Single Application Forms in NI.