UFU seeks reassurance from DARD on land eligibility

Wednesday, 6 May, 2015

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has met with DARD to seek clarity on issues relating to land eligibility and to request relaxations of the land eligibility rules within the Basic Payment Scheme.

UFU Hill Farming Chairman Ian Buchanan said: “As we get closer to the 15th May deadline for the submission of the Single Application Form there is still some doubt amongst farmers as to how to declare eligible land for the new Basic Payment Scheme. This is obviously of considerable importance as farmers seek to establish new entitlements on each hectare of eligible land this year. At recent UFU meetings concerns have been noted by farmers that while they may use the DARD land eligibility guidance booklet to make as accurate a claim as possible, they have queried what will happen if they are too cautious in their approach.

“For farmers on severely disadvantaged land in particular the landscape has the ability to change year in year out, whether that be through the encroachment of scrub, bracken or rushes and this can make it very difficult to define the eligible area.  DARD has reassured us that in cases where it has been difficult to assess the eligibility of difficult terrain that they will take a sympathetic approach with land inspections. Farmers are however encouraged to ensure that before finalising their claim that they walk their land and also familiarise themselves with the DARD land eligibility guidance booklet in order to make the best estimate of eligible land on their farm. Farmers familiar with DARD online services may also find the E-mapping tool helpful with their assessment of ineligible features.”

At the meeting the UFU also highlighted recent changes that have been made in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) to their land eligibility requirements.

Ian Buchanan continued: “While ROI largely have the same ineligible features as Northern Ireland, their Government has recently sought permission from the European Commission to relax their rules and introduce a more flexible pro-rata system which allows farmers with up to 10% of their field ineligible to claim the whole field. At the opposite end of the scale where up to 70% of the field is ineligible they can still claim up to 40% of the field. In comparison, DARD rules state that where more than 50% of the field is ineligible farmers must declare the whole field ineligible. While it is probably too late to implement these changes in NI for the 2015 claim, we have requested that DARD also introduce these more favourable terms in time for the 2016 claim.”