Reports indicate there is a high level of interest in the Results-Based Environment-Agri Pilot (REAP) project which was launched last week.
The interest is stemming from a number of avenues, with farmers who are currently not participating in an agri-environment scheme an obvious grouping.
There is also a wide level of general interest from farmers who are participating in the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) who are keen to explore what might be coming down the tracks when a flagship scheme launches in 2023.
On paper, the scheme looks like it is ideally suited to low- stocked enterprises
Others are intrigued about the results-based model and are keen to see what could be in store if it materialises that a large chunk of a farmer’s current payment is diverted to eco-schemes.
Beef and sheep farmers considering submitting an application for REAP should give the project fair consideration and assess how it might fit into their farming system.
On paper, the scheme looks like it is ideally suited to low- stocked enterprises, with the low-input grassland (LIG) measure a good fit where there are suitable swards present.
A mistake was made on some farms in GLAS of putting a large area of ground into the low-input permanent pasture and traditional hay meadow measures, with the output of these areas greatly curtailed as a result.
Farmers need to be mindful of this and realise the higher-payment LIG offer is there for a reason, to compensate for lower levels of productivity from these areas of grassland, while also putting a market value on biodiversity.
The jury is still very much out on mixed-species leys
The decision on the area apportioned to this measure is ultimately a business decision. The payment is results-based and therefore can be influenced by the management practices you opt for.
For some highly stocked farmers, the mixed species ley (MSL) option may be a good fit to incorporate into a reseeding programme.
The jury is still very much out on mixed-species leys – there is no questioning they have merit in terms of enhancing animal performance and the benefits of clover are well documented. The issue at present surrounds persistency.
However, the REAP costing is based on a two-year lifespan so farmers should not lose out even if persistency is an issue.
As the project is results-based and will be based on an assessment of the quality of vegetation and management practices, it is difficult at the outset to establish the exact level of payment.
**Our article here gives detail and examples which may help a farmer to work out a rough estimate of payment levels.
The other big consideration at present is how likely an application is to gain approval, given there is a maximum of 2,000 participants. The Department has indicated achieving a geographical spread will be a key determinant in the selection process.
Following this, the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) eligibility factor is likely to be the main factor that will influence the eligibility of many beef and sheep farms.
It is advisable to submit an application if you have a strong interest in the pilot project
Those who have ANC lands and a portion of Natura lands or high-/low-status watercourses are likely to be in the strongest position in terms of ranking if the scheme is oversubscribed.
For those who are interested in applying for REAP but worried that their eligibility criteria is low, it is worth assessing this with your adviser. It is advisable to submit an application if you have a strong interest in the pilot project.
There should not be a big cost in advancing the expression of interest and a quick answer should hopefully be forthcoming on the success of an application as farmers will be under time pressure to get working on measures if accepted into the pilot project.