The European Commission has unveiled sweeping plans to reduce farm inspections, cut CAP red tape and lessen the calendar farming requirements on tillage farmers.

The measures proposed would completely exempt those farming 10ha (almost 25ac) or less from CAP inspections and payment penalties as part of its efforts to simplify the CAP, although the Commission insists that farmers must still comply with conditionality rules.

Irish Farmers Journal analysis shows that the move would leave 28,000 farmers across the country free from CAP inspections.

Some 28% of all farmers in Donegal farm below the 10ha threshold detailed in the proposals – the highest proportion of farmers in any county.

Mayo would see the largest number of farmers benefiting from the plans as 3,167 farm less than 10ha, along with almost 3,000 farmers in Galway and over 2,400 in Cork.

The Commission stated that the proposals came after it listened to the concerns of farmers protesting over excessive red tape and from member states’ experience of rolling out the new CAP.

Satellites and tillage

Brussels is to review how the area monitoring system’s satellite checks can be better used to cut down on the need for boots-on-the-ground inspections which take up farmers’ time. It said that this could halve the number of on-farm CAP inspections.

Significant changes were proposed to loosen conditionality rules for tillage farmers and grant some freedom from calendar farming under the CAP’s good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAEC) rules.

It proposed that member states should be allowed to completely exempt certain crops, soil types or farming systems from green cover, crop rotation and/or crop diversification requirements.

For tillage farmers, it proposed replacing CAP scheme’s 4% space for nature requirement with a ban on removing non-productive features.

It wants to let farmers choose whether to follow a crop rotation requirement or one covering crop diversification (two/three-crop rule), where both are currently mandatory in CAP.

It also proposed giving flexibility to stubble cultivation/green cover by allowing member states the freedom to decide this rule’s deadlines in the context of challenging weather conditions and broadening the practices it will deem as being sufficient to meet this requirement.