James Gallagher, Leitrim IFA County Chairperson, acknowledged this week that the clarification for farmers in the county on eligible land is very helpful before making applications for the various schemes.
His comments come following the annoucement that the Department of Agriculture will now issue a booklet to all farmers in relation to the eligibility land.
Over 300 farmers recently attended the IFA Regional Meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon on the new CAP Schemes, noted Mr Gallagher and he pointed out that the eligible land was a major issue for those at the meeting.
“Following a long hard battle by IFA at both National and European level it is now an important breakthrough with the introduction of tolerances on eligible land,” said Mr Gallagher.
The County Leitrim IFA Chairperson said the Department of Agriculture guide issued last week, states that there are two key principles in relation to the eligibility of land under the new CAP.
Firstly, the land parcel must be available to the applicant and secondly the land must be agricultural and being maintained in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation. In addition, the Department points out there must be suitable access, defined external boundaries and appropriate fencing.
Mr Gallagher said under the new tolerances the EU now provides for a pro-rata system of reduction coefficients to facilitate area reductions within parcels.
It can be used to account for scattered small ineligible areas where it is not practical to measure and map them individually. He said this has been a major irritation for farmers over the last number of years, with the Department excluding small areas on maps and with resulting digitisation and payment delays.
This new system allows for 10% ineligible within the parcel where no reduction coefficient is applied. Where the percentage ineligible within the parcel is 10 to 30%, a 20% reduction coefficient will be applied and so on.
Mr Gallagher stressed that Minister Coveney and senior management in the Department of Agriculture must make it very clear to inspectors that the new tolerances must be interpreted and applied in a flexible and practical way at farm level.
He said the Minister must make it clear to the Department that the tight and rigid approach that caused so many problems is now redundant. IFA will be closely monitoring how this new system is implemented on the ground.
In addition, the County Leitrim IFA Chairperson told our reporter that the changes to how Natura areas are accessed is long overdue, as farmers in these restricted areas are prevented from undertaking land reclamation and improvement.