The EU basic payment scheme contains cross compliance obligations. They relate in particular to good agricultural and environmental conditions.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as the EU accredited Paying Agency, has have primary responsibility to ensure that the required level of Cross Compliance inspections are carried out and for fixing any sanctions to be applied. In general, the rate of on-farm inspection required for Cross Compliance is 1% of those farmers applying under the schemes listed in the paragraph above
The explanatory Handbook for Cross compliance requirements published by the Department of agriculture specifies the statutory management requirements (SMRs). There are SMRs which relate to
- protection of water against pollution caused by nitrates
- conservation of wild birds
- conservation of natural habitat and of wild flora and fauna
The good agricultural and environmental condition requirements include requirements relating to
- establishment of buffer strips along watercourses; The aim of this GAEC standard is to protect watercourses against pollution and run-off from agricultural sources by maintaining buffer strips. These requirements restrict the application and storage of chemical and organic fertilisers along watercourses and beside wells and boreholes. (SMR 1-Nitrates)
- protection of groundwater against pollution
- retention of landscape features and designated habitat and controlling invasive species Cross compliance sanction
If an applicant is found to be in breach of Cross Compliance through negligence, a sanction of 3% of the support payment will generally apply but this can be increased to 5% or decreased to 1% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the infringement. However, not every breach of the requirements or standards results in an automatic financial sanction. Where the breach is considered to be minor and remedial action is taken within the stipulated period, no sanction will apply.
Where the non-compliance is deemed intentional, a reduction of 20% shall generally be applied. The sanction can be increased up to 100%, or reduced to 15%, depending on the seriousness of the non-compliance. In extreme cases, the sanction can extend beyond the year of the finding.
In the case of an infringement of the same requirement, or standard occurring more than once, within a consecutive period of 3 calendar years, the sanction will be trebled, and this is called Reoccurrence which was previously known as Repetition.
Local Authorities and other competent control authorities are required under EU/National law to report breaches of these Regulations to the Basic Payment Unit. The Basic Payment Unit will then determine if a sanction under the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes is appropriate.
Farmers who are dissatisfied with the outcome of Cross Compliance inspections, following the receipt of the interim notification (Notice Form), may firstly submit any additional information in writing to the local District Superintendent.
On receipt of the Formal Notice which outlines findings at inspection, the farmer can then seek a review in writing from the District Inspector. She/he may further appeal their case to the Agriculture Appeals Office, should they still be dissatisfied with the findings. Details on how to lodge an appeal can be found on www.agriappeals.gov.ie
Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) Regulations 2011 & Environmental
Impact Assessment (Agriculture) ( Amendment) Regulations 2017
All farmers eligible for payment under BPS are subject to greening. Certain exemptions apply. In in very broad terms, that it is the arable sector that have obligations under greening. Certain exemptions also apply to arable farmers but for those who do not qualify for an exemption, one or all of the following four standard measures will have to be implemented:
- Crop Diversification – if a farmer has 10 or more hectares of arable land, he or she will be required to sow a number of different crops (2 or 3) unless they qualify for an exemption.
- Ecological Focus Area (EFA) – if a farmer has more than 15 hectares of arable land, he or she will need to declare at least 5% of ‘Ecological Focus Areas’ on their arable land – unless they qualify for an exemption.
- Protection of Permanent Grassland – this measure will be managed at national level and, therefore, no requirements will be placed on individual farmers. However, if the ratio of permanent grassland in Ireland – compared to the area of agricultural land – falls by more than 5%, farmers, who have ploughed permanent grassland will have to re-instate it. It would also mean that there would be restrictions on any further ploughing of permanent grassland. If the percentage does fall, the Department will notify individual farmers as to the requirements. The ploughing and reseeding of permanent grassland is not affected by this requirement.
- Environmentally Sensitive Permanent Grassland – under this measure permanent pasture designated as Environmentally Sensitive must not be ploughed or converted. In Ireland these are specific areas within Natura 2000 designated sites.
The Department has provided help and assistance for farmers with a greening obligation for the completion of their application using the online facility. Assistance for completing an online application is also available in the section “Completing the Greening section online” on page 62 of this document.
The Greening payment is based on the value of activated entitlements held by the farmer multiplied by a fixed greening percentage calculated each year. The fixed percentage for 2020 is calculated by dividing the total value of activated entitlements in 2020 into the 2020 greening ceiling.
GLAS and AEOS
Farmers who enter the GLAS Green, low carbon agri-environmental scheme must comply with certain requirements. An approved agricultural adviser must prepare the application. A nutrient management plan must be prepared in the first year. There is training course for specific actions including in relation to environmental practices. Certain record-keeping is required.
There are various tiers relevant to environmental circumstances or the intensity of stocking. Tier 2 applies to lands in a vulnerable water area. Appropriate actions relevant to the area concerned must be selected under the scheme. Other tiers have water management criteria as well.
The objectives of the Agri-environment action scheme (AEOS) are to meet the challenges of conserving and promoting biodiversity, encouraging water management and water quality measures and combating climate change.
The objective of the Natura 2000 scheme is to contribute to positive environmental management of farmed Natura 2000 sites and river catchments in the implementation of the Birds Directive (Council Directive 79/409/EEC), the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC).
One of three Environmental Objectives must be chosen: Biodiversity; Water; and Climate Change. A budget is planned for each objective. Only tillage farmers are eligible under the Climate Change objective. Within the chosen objective, farmers must choose at least two actions: One Mandatory and One Complimentary; OR Two Mandatory objectives lists.
Extra actions above the minimum two required may be chosen from any of the three categories: Mandatory; Complimentary; or Additional. Choosing extra actions increase chances of gaining entry to the scheme. Options include species-rich grassland, extensive meadows, planting hedges, coppicing or laying hedges, tree planting, planting orchards, fencing off watercourse and hedges, installing drinkers, use of low emission slurry spreading techniques, sowing wild bird cover, maintaining stone walls, keeping rare breeds and various tillage options. NATURA or Non NATURA Commonage
Priority entry will be given to farms with NATURA land or non NATURA commonage. A Sustainable Management Plan must be drawn up by a planner for such farms. Farmers with less than 67 ha of NATURA land or non NATURA commonage can avail of extra actions to increase payments
Livestock farmers are obliged to comply with slurry manure storage requirements limits on the quantity of organic manure spread the time of spreading. There are limited on the quantity of chemical fertilisers spread
Farmers are obliged to declare all lands on their holding including afforested land, owned, rented in and leased in land. Mountain and hill land is eligible provided it is kept in an eligible state by grazing it with adequate stock numbers. Commonage is eligible also, with the majority of commonages assigned a commonage adviser. The commonage advisor in most cases have completed a Commonage Management Plan which farmers in the GLAS Scheme have signed up to.
This management plan outlines the management practices for the commonage shareholders such as minimum and maximum stocking rates for the commonage and each individual farmer, Burning, overgrazing/undergrazing, soil erosion and other activities requiring consent. Bogland whether used for turf production or not is not eligible. Blanket bog which is used for agricultural purposes continues to be eligible. Areas of agricultural land may no longer be eligible due to scrub encroachment. Appropriate deductions must be made to claimed areas where sections of a land parcel are ineligible.