Active farmer v armchair farmer

Department of Agriculture system crosschecks and the requirement to prove an agricultural activity are the two key ways an active farmer will be defined in the next CAP, it was proposed at the Department’s first town hall meeting on Tuesday.

EU rules say an active farmer must be someone who is engaged in at least a minimum level of agricultural activity.

Thomas Harty from the Deparment said farmers may be asked to prove they are carrying out agricultural activity and carrying the economic risk of land they declare.

Paul Savage, assistant secretary general in the Department, added that there may also be a “negative list” of people or activities that would not be deemed active farmers.

Eligible hectare: scrub and drained land

The inclusion of scrub land as up to 30% of an eligible hectare will, for most farmers, have no direct impact on their basic payment (BISS) in the next CAP because the number of entitlements will not change, the Department’s David Buckley said at Tuesday’s meeting.

However he said it could lead to an increase in an eco scheme payment or other environmental scheme payment because of the increase in overall area.

Former REPS 4 habitats can be considered as eligible land under the next CAP, but the usual requirement for an agricultural activity on those areas would apply. Small areas of wet lands can also be considered eligible for payment, as long as they are considered agricultural areas and are used for agricultural activity.

When asked about land that was drained enough to enable it carry livestock, Buckley said farmers should seek advice from their agri adviser for specific advice, but that if the drainage was extensive, environmental impact assessment might be required and if the land was designated, permission might be required.

For land that was previously drained and only maintenance work was required, it would not impact on its eligibility.

However, taking non-agricultural land and doing large-scale work to make it suitable for agriculture could not be presented as eligible land under the new BISS (Basic Income Support for Sustainability).

Eco scheme? actions

Eco schemes, which will have €297m ringfenced from farmers’ direct payments in the next CAP, will be pertinent to participating farms and deliver for both farmers and the environment, Buckley said.

“We want this scheme to be as administratively easy for farmers and the Department,” he said.

If every farmer participates in an eco scheme, the total pool of €297m would be divided at a rate of €64/ha. The Department is designing the measures for the eco schemes and is seeking feedback on what would work. “We don’t envisage having a massive list of actions,” he said, because that would introduce complexity for farmers and the Department.