Changes on Space for Nature for eligibility of all CAP payments welcomed by INHFA

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association have confirmed significant changes in assessing space for nature that had the potential to undermine the ability of some farmers to draw down any CAP payment.

While Space for Nature is a measure under the new Eco-scheme it is also a factor in the new Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) with farmers needing at least 4% Space for Nature to meet requirements under GAEC 8.

Examples of Space for Nature features include rivers, ponds, ditches, hedgerow, trees, rock outcrop, stone walls and scrub land that may previously have been excluded. For most farmers attaining the percentage requirements under this measure was not an issue as illustrated in figures outlined last November. These saw 91% of farmers with over 10% which qualified them for the two measures in the Eco-scheme. A further 4% of farmers had between 7 and 10% which qualified them for one measure in the Eco-scheme. Another 5% of farmers had between 4 and 7% which ensured they met the GAEC 8 requirements for the BISS. However, 2% of farmers were under the 4% threshold which potentially compromised their BISS and all CAP payments.

In speaking on this INHFA President Vincent Roddy outlined how the vast majority of farmers impacted by this were extensive hill farmers often operating on designated lands – the very lands most people would have seen as delivering for the environment. This anomaly he stated “was a major concern for the organisation and one we highlighted to the Minister and Department of Agriculture officials as soon as it became apparent last September.”

Over the last number of months, we have, “being corresponding with the Department to ensure a solution is found within the CAP Framework. This solution has been found and will involve exemptions for farmed peatlands defined under GAEC 2, similar to the exemptions currently in place for farmers with commonage lands.”

This, Roddy added “should ensure compliance under GAEC 8 for the vast majority of farmers currently impacted and where farmers still have a problem there will be the option to fence off parts of field/LIPIS plots and create a space for nature habitat.”

“While we don’t anticipate there being a major requirement to create such a habitat it is vital that this option is still available for the small number of farmers that could be still impacted” he said.

In welcoming the progress on this the INHFA President outlined how farmers currently impacted will, we understand see the necessary changes made to their maps to reflect these exemptions and their updated Space for Nature percentage.

Details around this will, he concluded “be seen on farmers, Ag-Food profile and in the upcoming CAP correspondence which all farmers will receive from the Department in the coming weeks.”

This is very positive news along with the acceptance of the 46,000 farmers who applied for the ACRES Scheme. It was vital that those farmers were accepted into the new environmental scheme as it shows that farmers are willing to embrace positive contributions to Ireland’s environmental ambition.