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Forestry can complement BPS payments

May 10th, 2020 9:45 PM

By Southern Star Team

A farmer could receive an additional payment of between €510 and €680 per hectare for 15 years, depending on the land type and the tree species planted. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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FARMERS can maximise their income from the same plot of land by availing of forestry premiums and basic payments. For qualifying applicants, land planted in 2020 can continue to draw down the basic payments provided a number of criteria are fulfilled.

As the 2020 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application deadline of May 15th approaches, the following questions and answers will explain how both schemes complement each other:

Can I draw down BPS payments on my forestry land?

The short answer is yes, once a number of basic scheme requirements are met. Essentially, eligible land that was declared in a Single Payment Scheme (SPS) application in 2008 and which was planted in any year since 2009, or which will be planted in 2020, can continue to be eligible for a BPS payment in 2020 provided it satisfies a number of conditions including the following:

• The land to be planted was declared on a 2008 SPS application.

• The declared land was eligible for SPS in 2008.

• The area must have given a right to payment under the 2008 Single Payment Scheme.

Further comprehensive information on forestry and BPS interactions is available within the forestry section of the Teagasc website www.teagasc.ie/forestry

Must the land be in my name?

Any farmer seeking to draw down BPS payments on planted land must be the person or persons in joint management of receipt of the afforestation premium. This also applies to members of the same family and is an important detail to consider during farm or land transfers.

The BPS applicant’s name also must appear on both the herd number and forestry contract number for the forestry parcel(s) in order to be considered BPS-eligible. The Forestry Division of the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM) must be notified in advance if there is a change of ownership of a grant-aided plantation during the term of the forestry contract.

The planted land must also continue to meet all requirements of the relevant DAFM scheme under which it was afforested and the forestry parcels will be checked annually at BPS time to ensure they meet all the requirements.

Do I have to continue farming part of my agricultural land?

Prior to 2020, there was a requirement for farmers to retain at least 10% of the eligible land area in an agricultural activity (by themselves or their predecessor). This was subject to a minimum area of 3 hectares. This retention requirement does not apply in 2020. In addition, the 3 ha/10% retention rule is not required to ensure continued BPS eligibility for forests planted prior to 2020.

Therefore, if an applicant planted 90% of his/her land in any year between 2009 and 2019, s/he is not required to comply with previous rule (3 ha/10% retention) in order to continue claiming BPS entitlements on forested land. If s/he so wished, they could plant the remaining land in 2020 and claim the full BPS for this eligible forestry land.

Also remember, while eligible forestry parcels and relevant areas must be included in your BPS submission, applying for the annual forestry premium is a separate process to the BPS application.

Should I assume all the eligible area has been included on the pre-printed BPS form?

Check the pre-printed statement of land and maps and ensure the correct claimed area is included in the BPS application for all eligible forestry parcels. If the Maximum Eligible Area (MEA) and/or claimed area is pre-printed as 0 for any eligible forestry parcel, this will need to be changed to the appropriate area to ensure eligibility for that forestry parcel.

Amendments to 2020 BPS applications, including the addition of parcels, may be made online up to May 31st. Late amendments with additional parcels or amended claimed areas will be accepted online up to June 9th,  2020 (inclusive) but with a penalty. Naturally, it would be easier for everyone if the application was correct on the first submission!!

In terms of planting some land, what does this mean to me money-wise?

Outside of drawing down the annual BPs payment on eligible land, a farmer could receive an additional payment of between €510 and €680 per hectare for 15 years, depending on the land type and the tree species planted. The cost of establishment and early maintenance will generally be covered by the afforestation grant. In most cases, this means that there will be no cost to the farmer in establishing his/her new forest.

How can planting land be of benefit to a farmer’s BPS application?

Land that met all SPS requirements in 2008 but was red-lined at a later date because of encroaching scrub may be considered for estab¬lishing a grant-aided forest as well as BPS entitlements, provided that all forestry and BPS requirements continue to be met, including suitability of the land type. If in any doubt, seek full clarity from the DAFM’s BPS section in advance of planting.

You can consider the planting of eligible land you purchased or inher¬ited. Such land may also be eligible for a BPS payment provided it satisfies all of the eligibility criteria outlined above.

You may buy an existing eligible forest parcel and use it to activate purchased entitlements; provided all BPS eligibility requirements are met, the forestry contract number is valid and in the name of the applicant and the applicant is eligible for forest premium payment in the BPS scheme year in question.

If you received entitlements from the National Reserve, you may plant part of your holding and use eligible for¬estry to activate these entitle¬ments.

All entitlements allocated under BPS and the National Reserve are subject to a two-year usage rule. Any entitlement unused for two consecutive years will revert to the National Reserve. You can check your entitlement usage position on the DAFM online facility (www.agfood.ie).

Please note, this scenario list is not exhaustive and farmers need to be fully informed before committing a valuable resource.

Where can I get further information?

Getting one-to-one advice is very important before making a permanent land use change. Farmers plant forestry for numerous reasons such as guaranteed income, biodiversity, landscaping and (potentially) reducing the workload on the farm. Teagasc foresters provide independent and objective advice on forestry matters to all landowners. Their contact details can be found at www.teagasc.ie/forestry.

John Casey is a Teagasc forestry advisor and can be contacted on 087-2242283.

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