Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Questions (483, 484)

Finian McGrath

Question:

483. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in view of the new requirements for ecological focus areas as part of the greening element of Pillar 1 of CAP 2014-2020, the way his Department justifies the determination of land such as hedgerows, areas under tree cover, small areas of foliage or scrub as ineligible for the single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12208/14]

View answer

Finian McGrath

Question:

484. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he intends to implement a provision for ecological focus areas under Pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy. [12209/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 483 and 484 together.

The agreement reached under the Irish Presidency on the Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy incorporated the following three greening measures as part of the Direct Payment Regime:

- Crop Diversification;

- Maintenance of Permanent Grassland;

- Ecological Focus Areas.

The provisions governing Ecological Focus Areas – referred to as EFA areas - are mandatory requirements and must be applied in all Member States. Under these provisions, arable farmers whose holdings include more than 15 hectares of arable land must ensure that at least 5% of that arable land is allocated to Ecological Focus Area. All arable farmers with less than 15 hectares are exempt from the EFA requirement.

There are, of course, a number of further exemptions whereby farmers will be exempt from Crop Diversification and EFA greening measures. The following categories of farmers are the most significant for Irish farmers:

- Where more than 75% of the eligible land of the holding is permanent grassland, used for production of grasses or other herbaceous forage or a combination of these, provided the arable area not covered by these uses does not exceed 30 hectares.

- Where more than 75% of the arable land of a holding is used for the production of grasses or other herbaceous forage or land laying fallow, or a combination of these, provided the remaining arable area does not exceed 30 hectares.

- Land that is subject to organic farming practices automatically fulfils all greening requirements. However such exemption only applies to that part of the holding which is farmed organically.

The following areas can be classified as EFA areas under the EU Regulations:

- Lands lying fallow;

- Landscape features such as hedges, ditches and drains – including those situated adjacent to arable land;

- Buffer Strips;

- Short Rotation Coppice – no use of mineral fertiliser and/or plant protection products

- Eligible SPS Afforested Areas;

- Areas of catch crops or green cover;

- Areas of nitrogen fixing crops;

- Field margins – no agricultural production;

- Ponds – maximum of 0.1 ha

- Traditional stonewalls.

With the exception of buffer strips which may also be situated on permanent grassland, and afforested areas/short rotation coppice, the EFA areas referred to above must be situated on arable lands. Arable lands are lands that were involved in crop rotation in one or more years during the previous five years. In relation to the areas referred to by the Deputy, I assume that the lands with tree cover and scrub are not arable lands and are, therefore, not eligible as an EFA area. The grazing part of such areas are eligible for payment under the Single Farm Payment and under the Basic Payment Scheme (from 2015) provided they are farmed by the applicant and maintained in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition. However, hedgerows, as already stated can be eligible as an EFA area provided they are situated in or adjacent to an arable parcel declared by the applicant.