Advice: ‘Many Farmers Can Continue To Receive BPS Payments On Afforested Land’

Once again, it is time to complete your all important Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application.

If you have (or are considering) a forest enterprise on the farm then by adhering to strict criteria, many applicants can continue receiving entitlements on the afforested land.

It is essential that you understand fully how BPS interacts with forestry before signing off on the application as BPS regulations are extraordinarily complex.

Is your forest eligible for BPS purposes?

That’s the six-million dollar question. Eligible land declared in a Single Payment Scheme (SPS) application in 2008 and which was afforested in any year since 2009 or which will be planted in 2019 can continue to be eligible for a BPS payment in 2019 dependent on a number of conditions.

For instance, that means that the land to be planted was declared on a 2008 SPS application and that the declared land was eligible for SPS in 2008. The area must have given a right to payment under the 2008 Single Payment Scheme.

Another very important condition is that you must continue to be regarded as an active farmer following planting from 2009 onwards. That means that you must continue to farm at least 10% of the eligible hectares declared in 2008, subject to a minimum area of 3 hectares.

If you are a new entrant to farming, then the minimum area to be retained in an agricultural activity will be fixed by the Department on a case-by-case basis.

The BPS applicant’s name should appear on both the herd number and forestry contract number.

Eligible forestry parcels declared on a BPS application to activate entitlements will be subject to cross-compliance requirements.

How to complete your BPS application

When filling out your BPS application, the status of forestry parcels must be accurately reflected concerning Parcel Use.

If you are in receipt of payments under the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme, then you need to complete a BPS application form.

The key to filling out your BPS application correctly depends on when the forest was established. So, how do you go about it?

Your forest was planted before 2009

If you planted a forest before 2009, you should declare the land as forestry under “Parcel Use”.

Land planted 2009 TO 2018

If the parcel is pre-printed as Forestry Eligible on the online form: leave as is – do not change.

If you do change this on the parcel list, you cannot change back to Forestry Eligible. You will need to write to the Department requesting this change.

However, if the parcel use does not indicate Forestry Eligible, then the parcel should be entered reflecting the year when the forest was planted.

For instance, if the forest was planted in 2018 and you believe that it is eligible for entitlements, then it should be entered with a parcel use of “Forestry 2018″.

The DAFM’s BPS section will check this and they will amend the parcel if it is eligible to “Forestry Eligible”.

Forestry payments can be combined with BPS entitlements by adhering to strict criteria

Forestry payments can be combined with BPS entitlements by adhering to strict criteria

Land planted in 2019 before BPS submission

If you planted a forest this spring or are in the process of doing so by the time you are submitting your BPS application, then the parcel should be entered as Forestry 2019.

Land planted in 2019 after BPS submission

If you are planning to plant a forest this year but the work hasn’t started yet at the time of your BPS application, then you must enter the current, accurate parcel use.

You must submit an amendment once the forest establishment work has got underway (after the date of your BPS submission). You can do this amendment yourself online or otherwise ask your agent to do this on your behalf. Enter Forestry 2019 as parcel use on the amendment. Don’t forget to do this!

Various scenarios

Working as a Forestry Adviser with Teagasc, we regularly come across a wide range of issues that farmers need to consider carefully. Below is a brief overview of some of those queries.

Areas left unplanted under ESB lines may be eligible for BPS. This means that you must provide proper access to that area and that the area is fenced off from the adjoining forest. Also ensure that there is a water supply available and that an agricultural activity takes place.

You can consider planting land you purchased or inherited. Such land can be eligible for a BPS payment provided it satisfies all of the eligibility criteria I explained above.

Foliage Crops, Short Rotation Coppice or Energy Crops such as willow and miscanthus are eligible. However, Christmas trees are not eligible.

If you planted up to 50pc of your farm before 2009 and stacked your entitlements, you can plant more provided that you continue to actively farm at least 10pc of eligible hectares (subject to a minimum area of 3ha) declared in 2008.

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

If you own land and entitlements, you can choose to plant the owned land and claim BPS entitlement payments on rented/leased-in land.

Land that met all SPS requirements in 2008 but was redlined at a later date because of encroaching gorse can be considered for establishing a grant-aided forest as well as BPS entitlements provided that all forestry and BPS requirements continue to be met. If in doubt, clarify with the DAFM’s BPS section in advance of planting.

If you received entitlements from the National Reserve, you can plant part of your holding and use eligible forestry to activate these entitlements.

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).

The ‘Grove of Native Trees’ under GLAS is an environmental action which has to be located within a (productive) parcel that retains its maximum eligible area (MEA). If this ‘Grove of Native Trees’ action is being implemented within a parcel, the relevant area for this action should be marked (‘redlined’) as an exclusion within a parcel and not digitised out as a separate parcel

The closing date for BPS applications is Wednesday, May 15 at midnight. Further information is available from www.teagasc.ie/forestry.

Steven Meyen is a Teagasc forestry advisor email: steven.meyen@teagasc.ie

(Source – Irish Independent – Indo Farming – Steven Meyen – 03/05/2019)

 

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