The use of the Bing mapping system from 2011 makes it easy to identify the presence of hedgerows in 2011, and any subsequent hedgerow removal.
These hedgerows — and drains or ditches — have been designated as landscape features under the rules of Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition.
This means that it is not necessary to make deductions to parcel areas to account for these features — but they must be retained.
Wherever it is necessary to remove a hedgerow or fill in a drain, for good reasons such as farmyard expansion, single payment applicants may do so provided a new hedgerow or drain of equal length is planted or dug in advance of the removal of the old hedgerow or drain on the applicant’s holding. The new hedgerow species must be traditional to the area.
Failure to abide by these rules will result in a Cross Compliance penalty, advised Christy Byrne and Tim Hyde of the Teagasc Galway-Clare Regional Unit in a recent article on the teagasc.ie website.
These landscape features were designated in 2009.
If they were removed in 2009 or earlier, a penalty will not apply.
The penalties are based on the length removed.
The penalty in the first year is 1%, 3% or 5% on SPS, DAS, REPS or AEOS, Grassland Sheep Scheme (all direct payments).
Penalised farmers must also plant or dig a new hedgerow or drain/ditch of equal length to the feature removed, within 12 months. Otherwise, a further cross compliance penalty, of 20% or greater will be applied.
Removal of hedgerows and trees cannot be done between March 1 and August 31.
And burning of waste hedgerow material requires prior consent from the environment section of the local authority.
There are also Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations where farmers carry out developments that exceed certain thresholds, above which they must apply and get approval from the DAFM before work commences.
The EIA Regulations apply to restructuring of rural land holdings (removal of lengths of field boundaries, or re-contouring of land); commencing to use uncultivated land or semi-natural areas for intensive agriculture; and land drainage.
If you think any works you propose to carry out may be subject to the requirements of the regulations, you should apply to the Department of Agriculture for screening.
For further information, consult your agricultural adviser or the Department (LoCall 1890 200 509).
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