The Department of Agriculture has proposed that scrub and other non-agricultural features be included in the definition of an eligible hectare in the next CAP.
In documents seen by the Irish Farmers Journal, the Department said that from 1 January 2023, Ireland “proposes to allow up to 30% of a parcel to consist of features that may be beneficial to climate and biodiversity to be considered eligible.”
It also wants farmers to be eligible to draw down a Basic Income Sustainability Support (BISS) payment, the replacement for the BPS, on this land.
“This will ensure that for areas of scrub, or other non-agricultural features eg habitats, copse, up to 30%, a farmer would not have to remove them, to allow them draw down a BISS payment, eco-scheme, or any other Pillar II area-based payments where such payments were based on “eligible” area.
“We estimate implementing the ‘up to 30% features that may be beneficial to climate and biodiversity’ will bring in an additional 55,000 (approximately) hectares,” it said.
The Department has said that this would equate to about 1% of what could be considered high-diversity landscape features in the context of the Green Deal strategy.
An eligible hectare will be defined as “any agricultural area that, for during the year for which support is requested, is used for an agricultural activity or, where the area is also used for non-agricultural activities, is predominantly used for agricultural activities, and which is at the farmer’s disposal.”
The Department said that these scrub and habitat areas would not be designated “landscape features” and therefore the farmer would be free to remove them, if they so wished.
It said that further consideration and discussion would be required on whether agricultural parcels with no agricultural activity could be considered eligible, where duly justified, for environment or climate-related reasons.
The Department has also proposed including rushes under the definition of what constitutes “permanent grassland.”