The Department of Agriculture has made changes to controversial requirements under the new CAP which state that a grass lie-back area is required beside a forage crop.

The rules stated that where a farmer had 10ha of a forage crop they needed 10ha of a grass lie-back.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has now changed the rules following comments made on the grass lie-back.

Farmers now need an area with 70% forage crop and 30% lie-back. So if a farmer has 10.5ha of forage crop they need 4.5ha of a grass lie-back -- 15ha in total.

However, this will come as little comfort to many as a large amount of these crops are planted on specialist tillage farms which do not have any grass.

Mixed farms will have grass, but that grass needs to be beside the field the forage crop is in, so this may be hard to achieve on mixed farms.

As many farmers have already planted these crops, the Department stated that "the Minister has instructed inspectors to take into account that farmers may not have been aware of the new requirements at the time of sowing and to consider non-compliances on a case-by-case basis".

Stubbles not allowed

The Department has said that stubbles will not suffice for a lie-back area.

In a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal, the Department said: "Harvested cereal stubbles would not be considered as a suitable lie-back space, as further grazing activity by livestock in these areas and during these periods could remove soil cover as required under GAEC 6.

"Furthermore, harvested cereal stubble must have regard for the stubble management requirements as set out under Ireland’s current nitrates regulations."

Farm organisations furious

The Irish Farmers Journal revealed the rule last week. Farmers had stopped sowing the crops in recent weeks, as the rules meant that they would need a grass crop beside the forage crop, which was not available and is costly to plant.

This led to worries over availability for the store lamb trade.

The Irish Grain Growers Group, Macra, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association and the Irish Farmers Association all came out strongly against the rule, describing it as unworkable, unviable and a backward step at a time when the Government has a target to increase tillage area.