The Ballingeary, Co Cork farmer says landowners subject to eligible land inspection review or appeal must fight their corner, to maximise base year hectares for the new Basic Payment Scheme.
He says there may still be time for some, up to May 15, to maximise payments for the next five years.
“For those of us inspected for area aid in 2014 or 2015, and awaiting the outcome, or for those anxious to appeal an area aid inspection decision they think is too harsh, there is still time to possibly increase your final eligible claimable hectares.
“These hectares decide your ‘base year’ claim. Every hectare you can still add on for 2013 qualifies you to claim the maximum hectares in 2015, and dilutes your 2014 entitlements held. The same goes if you intend to replace land which you took in 2013, but have since relinquished.
“Take, as an example, a farmer with a €5,000 single payment held in 2014, going through an inspection or review, in which the Department of Agriculture seeks to reduce his holding one-third, giving him 40 hectares in 2013.
If the Department succeeds, this farmer’s 2015 application will be for €5,000 divided by 40 hectares, equal to €125 per hectare. By 2019, this farmer may see a rise in his payment of €25 approximately per hectare, or €1,000 total per year.
“If however, this farmer fights his corner and succeeds in his review or appeal and retains his 60 hectares claimable for 2013, his 2015 application will calculate as €5,000 divided by 60 hectares, €84 a hectare.
"And he would see a rise in payment, again depending on the final base rate plus greening, of €66 per hectare, or about €4,000 total per year.
“If your ground grew herbaceous vegetation in 2013, and livestock have access to that ground, it could be included in your 2015 area aid application, including ground covered in gorse in 2014, due to torrential, rainy conditions preventing burning, and ground where scrub was cleared in 2014/2015.
"In an inspection or appeal, it’s about ‘facts on the ground’. You can clear ground by burning safely before March 1. Keep control of the fire as it burns — by talking to your neighbours, and to forest owners within a mile.
"Carry a shovel with you, and begin burning against the wind. The objective is to achieve a slow, controlled burn — not a raging flash fire. Controlled burning also gives wildlife time to escape. The seeds released by the fire help to feed wildlife in bitter weather.
“Slow, controlled burning will also prevent possible hazards for motorists and walkers. Ensure safety for everyone, including yourself.
Landowners are advised to seek NPWS (National Parks & Wildlife Service) advice on habitat and conservation issues when planning burning, and to notify the fire service. They are obliged by law to notify in writing owners of forestry within one mile, and the gardaí, of their intention to burn. The Department of Agriculture’s Codes of Practice for Prescribed Burning should be consulted.