Update of existing farming schemes & entitlements for Forestry

February 8, 2016

Update of existing farming schemes & entitlements for Forestry

Forestry continues to be highly attractive for many farmers and landowners. The decision to plant is a long term land use change and consideration of all implications is recommended, including its potential to compliment other farming enterprises and to provide financial, environmental and social benefits. The merits of the forestry option should be explored with family members, including issues such as future objectives and succession planning.

Eligibility for forestry premium payments

The new forestry programme 2014 – 2020 does not differentiate between farmers and non-farmer premium rates, with enhanced premiums available over a 15 year period.

Forestry and the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)

Eligible land planted with forestry since 2009 and which will be afforested under the new Forestry Programme 2014-2020 can be used to activate basic payment scheme (BPS) entitlements.  This is a major advantage for applicants in a position to benefit. Applicants who will plant their lands in 2015 should ensure the correct crop category and parcel use are entered on the Basic Payment Scheme application form at the time of its completion. If planting takes place after the BPS submission deadline, a BPS amendment form must be submitted, notifying the change to eligible forestry.

Forestry and Greening

Payment for ‘Greening’ measures will be calculated as a percentage of the BPS payment. While all farmers are required to comply with greening requirements, many farmers will be exempt or automatically qualify for the greening payment based on current farming practices. Arable farmers with more than 15 hectares of arable land must ensure that at least 5% of their arable land is an ‘Ecological Focus Area’ (EFA).

Forestry and Early Retirement Scheme (ERS)

While the Early Retirement Scheme (ERS) is now closed to new entrants, the new single category for forests premium may act as an incentive to retired farmers to plant, particularly where lands they had leased to qualify under the ERS are returned to them.

Forestry and Areas of Natural Constraint

The Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme has replaced the Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS).This is an annual area payment based on minimum stocking density. The threshold payment area for most farms is 30 hectares (or 34 hectares on mountain land) as per the Disadvantaged Area Scheme. Where the farm size is above the relevant area threshold, there may be opportunities to maximise ANC payment on the threshold area and also plant some remaining land. Planting a forestry plot on a farm holding whose total eligible area is equal to or lower than the threshold (30 or 34 ha) would result in a pro-rata reduction in ANC payment.

Forestry and Agri-Environmental Schemes (inc. GLAS)

The Agri-Environmental Options Schemes (AEOS 1, 2 and 3) are not whole farm schemes. There may therefore be scope for landowners to incorporate some forestry on non–AEOS parcels within their holding without compromising AEOS requirements. It is also possible for AEOS parcels to be considered for afforestation within the 5 year contract without penalty.

The Green Low Carbon Agri-Environmental Scheme (GLAS), similar to AEOS, is not a whole farm scheme. Successful applicants must choose appropriate options, some of which are area based. Parcels that are in GLAS cannot be converted to forestry. However, opportunities continue to exist for afforestation and for other forestry schemes on parcels which are not in GLAS. Applicants and their Advisors should look at the opportunities afforded by both schemes when planning for GLAS.