My Department is required to implement rules for the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes, with regard to land eligibility and cross compliance requirements, as prescribed in the governing EU regulations.
Drainage work may impact on farmers’ basic payments either by a change in the area of land being farmed or may be in breach of cross compliance requirements. If the land area is increased as a result of the drainage work, it may facilitate an increase in the eligible area and the basic payment, where there are entitlements available. If the land area eligible for payment is reduced, e.g. by fencing off any area to facilitate the drainage works, it may reduce the basic payment. If the reduction in the area is short term and temporary in nature e.g. an area temporarily fenced off for a short period to facilitate the drainage works, this will not impact on the eligible area. If the reduction in area is permanent, the basic payment may be reduced depending on whether or not the number of eligible hectares is reduced below the number of entitlements available to the farmer. Otherwise the farmer may acquire additional land to replace the area lost as a result the drainage work.
There may also be an impact on the basic payment where an inspection determines a breach under the cross compliance requirements. Where the land involved is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protected Area (SPA), if the drainage works cause a breach of Activities Requiring Consent/Notifiable Actions under SMR 2 or SMR 3, the farmer must have permission from NPWS to allow the work. Any permission provided by NPWS to the Local Authority to cover the works and indicating the land parcels covered is adequate.
If the work involves the closing of existing land drains or hedgerow removal, the farmer will be required to replace these as they are designated as landscape features. Failure to replace them will result in a breach of the Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) and could result in a sanction, the extent of which depends on the lengths of landscape features removed, with the requirement for replacement remaining.
Drainage works may also have an impact on any of the other area-based payment schemes operated by the Department that a farmer may be participating in, for example ANC, Greening, YFS, GLAS, and BDGP. Any change in the eligible area may impact on each scheme payments.
If the Deputy provides further information on the nature of the works and the land parcels involved, officials in my Department will examine the case further.