The rules that apply to farmers in NI as either legal requirements or as conditions for claiming the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) are effectively unchanged for the 2024 calendar year.

Cross-compliance standards for 2024 were published by DAERA last week in a document that spans 97 pages.

A key part of meeting the rules involves adhering to various dates for submitting paperwork and carrying out farming activities.

The first major deadline of the year is 31 January for submitting online records of organic manure movements during 2023. This is particularly important for farms stocked near the 170kg/ha manure nitrogen loading limit.

If conditions are suitable, fertiliser, farmyard manure and slurry can be applied from 1 February in NI. However, throughout February, and from 30 September to 15 October, stricter slurry spreading rules apply.

For example, the maximum distance when spreading near a waterway increases from 10m to 15m, and the maximum application rate drops from 4,500gal/ac to 2,700gal/ac.

The closed period for hedge, tree and scrub cutting takes effect from 1 March. The same date is also the deadline for applying for nitrates derogation for the 2024 year, and for submitting fertilisation accounts if you were derogated in 2023.

Heather, gorse, whin or fern cannot be burned from 15 April. The next deadline is 15 June, when derogated farms must have at least 50% of their slurry spread. From that date, the remainder must be applied by low-emission equipment.

Farms must have nitrates records from 2023 ready for inspection by 30 June, the closed period for burning heather, gorse, whin and fern ends on 31 August, plus hedge, tree and scrub cutting can recommence from 1 September. The closed period for applying chemical fertiliser starts at midnight on 15 September. This is followed by the closed period for slurry spreading at midnight on 15 October and the farmyard manure deadline is 31 October.

The final deadline of the year is the annual sheep inventory, which needs to be completed between 1 and 5 December.

New standards

As part of DAERA’s future agricultural policy proposals, a new Farm Sustainability Payment (FSP) is to replace the BPS and will come with a new set of standards replacing cross-compliance. The FSP is to be fully rolled out by 2026.