Farmers on peatland or wetland will not have their payments stripped away in the next CAP, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has insisted.
It comes after farmers in upland and hill areas expressed fears that a new cross compliance requirement could render land ineligible for direct payments.
Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) 2 requires the imposition of management practises that protect carbon-rich soils.
There is legal wrangling in Brussels over the exact wording of the requirement as to whether it should be minimum, effective or appropriate.
Of particular concern to farmers is the proposal from the European Council of Ministers.
Addressing the Dáil on Thursday 22 April, Minister McConalogue stated he would not seek the removal of the text.
“This approach is the best one for Irish farmers. I assure you of that,” the Minister said.
He said the text would give member states flexibility to set their own minimum standards that could then be built on through eco-schemes and agri-environmental schemes.
A number of TDs raised concerns that farmers would require a derogation to continue receiving payments.
The Minister said there would be no requirement for a farmer to seek permission, or exemptions, for activities on peatland lands.
“There is no provision to require a system of seeking approval from any Minister or official proposed in the council text. The council text simply states that these areas are automatically viewed as eligible hectares.
“It is as straightforward as that. No applications, no decisions to be taken. They are eligible hectares,” he said.
Making reference to his upbringing on a Donegal hill farm, the Minister said there was no intention to introduce a standard under GAEC 2 that would prevent hill farmers from carrying out agricultural activities.
“Introducing the standard will require us to consider what management practices can best support good farming practices that protect our environment, taking our own local farming conditions into account.
“That is not a prohibition on farming. I unequivocally back, support and defend farming in these areas," Minister McConalogue said.