Written answers

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Louth, Fianna Fail)
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98. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the severe implications for intensive cereal growers from the greening proposal in the next phase of the Common Agricultural Policy; if he is contemplating any changes to the payment regime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23559/14]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Following the agreement reached on the Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the Single Payment Scheme will be replaced by the Basic Payment Scheme. In addition to the Basic Payment Scheme, Member States must introduce a 'Payment for Agricultural Practices beneficial for the Climate and the Environment' or greening, as it is more commonly known. Farmers who participate in the Basic Payment Scheme must implement the three standard greening measures as follows:

- Protection of permanent grassland

- Crop diversification

- Ecological Focus Area (EFA).
In general, the greening provisions apply mainly to arable farmers excluding small-scale arable growers. There are, however, a number of exemptions whereby arable farmers will be exempt from greening of which the following are the most significant for Irish farmers:

-Where more than 75% of the eligible land of the holding is permanent grassland, provided the arable area not covered by these uses does not exceed 30 hectares.

-Land that is subject to organic farming practices automatically fulfils all greening requirements.

Permanent grassland is defined as land that has not been included in the crop-rotation of a holding for five years or more.

In Ireland, I decide that the obligation to maintain permanent grassland would be applied at national level rather than at individual or regional level. Under the provisions of the Regulations, Member States, who apply the provisions at national level – like Ireland - must ensure that the ratio of permanent grassland to total agricultural area shall be maintained and that this ratio shall not decrease by more than 5% compared with the 2012 ratio of permanent grassland to total agricultural area. Based on the current situation, this is unlikely to decrease by more than 5% in the foreseeable future. Therefore there is no obligation imposed on individual farmers to meet this requirement at this stage.

There is no crop diversification requirement where a farmer holds less than ten hectares of arable land. Where a farmer holds between ten and thirty hectares of arable land, he is obliged to grow at least two crops. Where a farmer holds more than thirty hectares of arable land, he is obliged to grow at least three crops. Winter and Spring Barley, for example, are considered two separate crops and temporary grassland is also classed as a separate crop group for the purpose of crop diversification. For the majority of farmers who are involved in crop rotation, the crop diversification requirement will have very little impact.

Farmers whose holdings include less than 15ha of arable land are exempt from this measure. Where a holding includes more than 15 hectares of arable land, at least 5% of that arable land is allocated to Ecological Focus Area. Land that is considered as Ecological Focus Area may include hedges, drains, buffer strips, fallow land, areas with catch crops or green cover and nitrogen fixing crops. Protein crops used for EFA purposes may also qualify for an additional payment under a Scheme of Coupled Support for Protein Crops. For the majority of farmers the 5% EFA requirement will be met with existing arrangements and no further action will be required.

Officials from my Department are engaging with farming organisations, the arable sector and the industry in general so as to ensure that measures as implemented in Ireland will take into account issues facing arable farmers.

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