All CAP payments will remain subject to farmers satisfying cross-compliance rules — but farmers must also comply with greening criteria to earn 30% of their direct payment.
It is optional to apply the 30% to the farmer’s individual payment, rather than as a flat rate.
There are three criteria.
Crop diversification is exempt for farmers with less than 10 hectares of arable land, there is a two-crop requirement between 10 and 30 hectares, and a three-crop requirement over 30 hectares.
There is a main crop maximum of 75%. There is an exemption for farmers with over 75% of their holding under grassland (permanent and temporary), and with over 75% of arable land under temporary grassland — provided the remainder of their land is less than 30 hectares.
Maintaining permanent grassland is the second greening criterion.
Permanent grassland must be maintained at national, regional or farm level.
A new permanent grassland ratio will be created using 2012 declarations, which will be updated using additional lands declared in 2015. The threshold for conversion of permanent grassland compared to the ratio will be 5%.
Also on the way is a ban on ploughing of certain designated lands in permanent grassland within Natura 2000 areas, where the areas are environmentally sensitive and where the Natura 2000 Directive require them to be strictly protected.
Criterion number three, the Ecological Focus Areas, apply to arable land only, and permanent crops are excluded.
There is an exemption where the arable land of a holding is less than 15 hectares. Over 15 hectares, 5% of the arable land must be ecological focus area, increasing to 7% in 2017. Qualifying ecological focus areas include fallow land, terraces, landscape features and buffer strips. As for crop diversification, where more than 75% of the holding is in grassland (permanent or temporary), there is an exemption, subject to a maximum for the remaining land of 30 hectares.
Exemptions also apply for holdings where more than 75% of the arable land is temporary grassland, fallow, leguminous crops, or a combination of these, subject to a maximum for the remaining land of 30 hectares.
Greening equivalency means that farmers already following beneficial environmental practices can automatically qualify for the green payment without necessarily complying with greening rules.
For example, organic producers will have no additional requirements. Agri-environment schemes (REPS, AEOS) may also incorporate measures that are considered equivalent. To avoid “double funding” of such measures, payments for REPS and AEOS must take into account the basic greening requirements.
To complement the new greening practices, agri-environmental measures will be stepped up to meet higher environmental protection targets (to guarantee against double funding).
Farmers who fail to apply mandatory greening measures will face additional sanctions on top of losing their greening subsidies. Farmers will be assisted in getting used to greening, insofar as penalties for non-compliance with greening will not be implemented until the third year of the new direct payments regime. Although inspections for compliance will be part of the system from 2015 onwards, fines for not meeting greening rules will not be imposed in 2015 and 2016. From 2017 on, greening penalties kick in, of up to 20% of the greening payment in year three and 25% in year four.
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