Basic Payment Scheme
On this page:
- Eligibility of Forestry for Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) 2021
- Additional Important Questions and Answers
- Further information
The 2021 application deadline is Monday, 17 May 2021 (midnight).
Eligible land that was 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 2021 can continue to be eligible for a BPS payment in 2021 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.
- Farmers who wish to benefit from the Basic Payment on afforested land must be the person or persons named as the forestry scheme beneficiary or joint beneficiary. This means that the BPS applicant must be the person or persons eligible for the payment of the forestry premium.
Note: This requirement may impact on and must be fully considered in advance in cases where planted land is being transferred, including within families. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine’s (DAFM) Forestry Division must be notified in advance if there is a change of ownership of a grant-aided plantation during the term of the forestry contract.
- Afforested land must continue to meet all requirements of the relevant DAFM scheme under which it was afforested.
- DAFM will examine forestry parcels each year to ensure they meet all the requirements of the relevant scheme. The forestry premium must be paid on each claimed parcel as part of the terms and conditions, in order for the BPS section to examine the plots for eligibility.
The pre-2020 requirement where applicants, planting part of their holding were obliged to retain at least 10% of the eligible hectares declared in 2008 (by themselves or their predecessor) in an agricultural activity, subject to a minimum area of 3 hectares, for the purpose of retaining eligibility for BPS does not apply for new planting in 2021.
In addition, this retention requirement (3 ha / 10% retention) is not required to ensure continued eligibility for forests planted prior to 2021. Therefore, if an applicant planted 90% of his/her land in any year since 2009, s/he is not required to comply with the previous rule (3ha / 10% retention) in order to continue claiming BPS entitlements on forested land.
If the applicant plants in 2021, the land still must meet the other eligible rules in the bullet points above, but s/he can plant all their land where appropriate and claim BPS payment in 2021.
Applicants in receipt of payments under any Grant and Premium Category (GPC) of the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme, FEPS or the Native Woodland Establishment Scheme are required to declare all land parcels on their holding in their 2021 BPS application form.
If submitting a BPS application online, it should also be borne in mind that any land displayed as Forestry Eligible on the parcel list online, if amended for any reason, cannot be changed back to Forestry Eligible online, it will be necessary to write to the Department requesting this change.
When filling the BPS application, the status of forestry parcels must be accurately reflected in terms of Parcel Use on the land details page of the online application.
The table below provides a summary of the BPS application requirements for applicants with forestry parcels that will vary according to the timing of their forest establishment:
Timing of Forest Establishment
Input on BPS Form (Parcel Use)
Parcels planted before 2009
Eligible parcels planted 2009 - 2020 (inclusive)
If pre-printed as Forestry Eligible on online form, LEAVE AS IS.
Otherwise should be entered according to the forestry year, e.g. if planted in 2016, it should be entered with a parcel use of "Forestry 2016".
Following relevant admin checks in BPS processing, these parcels (assuming eligible) will be amended to Forestry Eligible.
Eligible Parcels already planted or in the process of being planted in 2021 before BPS deadline of 17 May
Parcels to be planted in 2021 but not yet started at the date of BPS submission
For such parcels planted after the date of BPS submission, appropriate amendment must be made online
It is important that applicants who plant forestry in 2021, after BPS submission, either make this amendment themselves or otherwise notify their agent to make the necessary changes
Accurate parcel use as of date of BPS form submission
Input Forestry 2021 as parcel use on amendment
Ensure correct areas for all eligible parcels on BPS
It is essential to check the preprinted statement of land and maps and ensure the correct Maximum Eligible Area (MEA) and claimed area are entered in the BPS application for all eligible forestry parcels. For example, if the 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.
When premium payments conclude
Once the period of premium payments under your afforestation measure has concluded, these parcels will remain eligible for BPS once you maintain your commitment to that particular afforestation measure. This includes agroforestry.
If planning to transfer a forestry parcel
Plan in advance and in good time for this transfer:
- Notify the Forestry Division of DAFM in advance if there is a change of ownership of a grant-aided forest during the term of the forestry contract
- Remember, farmers who wish to benefit from the Basic Payment on afforested land must be the person (or persons) named as the forestry scheme beneficiary (or joint beneficiary). In order for a transferee to avail of BPS payment on eligible forestry parcels being transferred, s/he must be named as the forestry scheme beneficiary in the year of transfer, i.e. the transferee (rather than the transferor) should be the person eligible for payment of the forestry premium
- Advanced planning, appropriate timing and a coordinated approach between the transferor and transferee are essential in such cases to help ensure continued eligibility and avoid issues arising
- It is therefore important to check in advance with the BPS section and plan accordingly
Making required amendments
Amendments to incorrectly claimed areas must be submitted via the online system by Monday 31 May 2021 without receiving a penalty. Late amendments with additional parcels or amended claimed areas will be accepted online up to Wednesday 9 June 2021 inclusive but with a penalty.
Two-Year Usage of Entitlements
All entitlements allocated under BPS and the National Reserve are subject to a two-year usage rule. In this regard, any entitlement that remains unused for two consecutive years will revert to the National Reserve. It is therefore important to ensure that forestry parcels retain their eligibility on an annual basis. Entitlement usage position may be viewed on the DAFM online facility www.agfood.ie.
Land Availability Rule
To claim payments under the 2021 BPS, all of the hectares of land declared by the applicant to support his/her claim must be available to them (for a period from the beginning of the year until after 31 May 2021 or for a period before 31 May 2021 to 31 December 2021) and either be maintained as agricultural land for the 2021 calendar year or planted under the Afforestation Scheme in 2021.
Other eligibility issues
A range of other BPS issues with forestry relevance may arise, some of which are listed below:
- Areas under Foliage Crops are eligible for the BPS (Parcel Use: Foliage)
- Areas under Short Rotation Coppice are eligible for the BPS (Parcel Use: Short rotation Coppice)
- Areas under Energy Crops such as willow and miscanthus are eligible for the BPS (Parcel Use: Willow or Miscanthus Sinensis, as appropriate)
- Areas under Christmas Trees are not eligible for the BPS
- Areas unplanted under ESB lines may be eligible for BPS provided
- they have independent and proper access
- they are fenced
- they have a water supply (for stock)
- an agricultural activity is being carried out on such parcels by the applicants (Parcel Use: Forestry ESB Corridor Eligible)
- Land acquired (through purchase or inheritance) can be planted and considered eligible for a BPS payment provided it satisfies all of the eligibility criteria
- Where land was planted and entitlements consolidated in the past, it is no longer necessary to continue farming the remaining land for a five-year period
- Eligible forestry parcels declared on BPS applications to activate entitlements will also be subject to cross-compliance requirements
- For further information, consult the BPS 2021 Terms and Conditions
All farmers eligible for payment under the BPS are subject to greening. However, many applicants will automatically qualify for the Greening Payment based on their current farming practices.
In broad terms, it is the arable sector that will have greening obligations. Arable farmers should be aware of their obligations, relevant greening area calculations and should be aware of any exemptions that may apply in their situations in relation to greening. For example, if an applicant has more than 15 hectares of arable land, s/he will need to declare 5% "Ecological Focus Area" (EFA) on their arable land, unless they qualify for an exemption (Pages 53/54 of 2021 DAFM BPS T&Cs).
Areas of Afforestation (BPS eligible) and of Short Rotation Coppice are also included in calculating the 5% EFA if declared as EFA areas in the application. If not included as EFA areas, they will not be included in the EFA calculation. Also included in the 5% calculation are the converted areas under Field Margins and Landscape Features (including hedgerows), which are situated on permanent grassland adjacent to arable land and are declared as EFAs. For forestry to be eligible, ensure it satisfies the eligibility requirements under the 2021 Basic Payment Scheme (Page 77 of 2021 DAFM BPS T&Cs).
Each hectare of eligible forestry is equal to 1.0 hectares of EFA. Each hectare of Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) can be deemed equivalent to 0.3 hectares of EFA. BPS-eligible afforested land and Short Rotation Coppice must be located on the applicant's holding. Farmers are required to separately declare all their EFA areas and features. Provision is made on the online facility to make the EFA declaration at the level of each parcel.
Short Rotation Coppice is classified as a permanent crop under EU regulations (see Pages 58/59 of 2021 DAFM BPS T&Cs). Therefore, while the area is not classified as arable land, the area under SRC may be taken into account when initially calculating the 5% EFA requirement (if the SRC is declared as an EFA area). BPS eligible forestry is also used to calculate the 5% EFA requirement if declared as an EFA area.
Hedgerows and trees in a line are designated as Landscape Features under Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) and such qualifying features are eligible to draw down payments under BPS and Greening (see Pages 34/35 of 2021 DAFM BPS T&Cs (re Landscape Features) and Pages 53-56 of 2021 DAFM BPS T&Cs re qualification criteria, conversion and weighting factors for EFA purposes).
Field copses are areas of trees/scrub that, to be eligible as an EFA, must be in or adjacent to an arable parcel. To qualify as a Field Copse an area must meet the following requirements:
- Must be adjacent to (touching) or within the arable land and be declared by the claimant
- EFAs are considered to be adjacent to arable land when they are physically touching an agricultural parcel on the longest edge of the concerned EFA. Illustrated examples are given in a Guide to Greening, available on the DAFM website
- Must contain trees and/or scrub
- The area must have a separate LPIS parcel number and be declared as 'Copse'. A copse is not eligible for payment under the BPS and/or Area of Natural Constraint (ANC)
- It cannot be removed by the claimant in the year in which they are being claimed for EFA purposes
- A copse greater than 0.3 ha (digitized area) qualifies as EFA from 2018 but the EFA contribution is capped at 0.45 ha (i.e. 0.3 X 1.5)
- A field copse of 0.3 ha is therefore equivalent to 0.45 ha of EFA
BPS-eligible afforested land and short rotation coppice can both be located on any agricultural land on the holding, i.e. they do not have to be located on arable land. Hedges, drains, buffer strips, field margins and field copses may be located either on or adjacent to arable land (See Page 59 of 2021 DAFM BPS T&Cs).
- Question: A farmer applies for the forestry premium in January 2021 and is paid for this year. Then in April of 2021 decides to put the herd number into his son's name, is there any way to ensure the son gets paid for the entitlements on the forestry?
Answer: Farmers who wish to benefit from the Basic Payment on afforested land must be the person or persons named as the forestry scheme beneficiary or joint beneficiary. This means the BPS applicant, must be the person or persons eligible for the payment of the forestry premium. In this case, the 2021 forestry payment will not match the 2021 BPS, so the entitlements to be claimed on forestry land will need to be leased out, or the transfer put off until after 1 June 2021. If the father applies for BPS in 2021, he will get paid for the forestry land.
- Question: Can an applicant who buys forested land that meets all the requirements to be BPS-eligible use this forestry to activate purchased entitlements?
Answer: Yes, provided all eligibility requirements are met, BPS applicant(s) is the person or persons named as the forestry scheme beneficiary or joint beneficiary. Again like in question 1, the timing is important. The person who claims payment for forestry premia is the only person who can claim BPS on the same land. With purchased forestry land and entitlements, clawback of 20% could be applied if land is deemed ineligible on the BPS application.
- Question: Can a farmer who owns land and entitlements chose to plant the owned land and claim BPS entitlement payments on land s/he might rent/lease in?
- Question: All the land in my holding is under forestry, do I still need to fill in a BPS application?
Answer: Applicants in receipt of payments under the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme are required to declare all land parcels on their holding in their 2021 BPS application form.
- Question: I recently received entitlements from the National Reserve, am I allowed to plant part or all of my holding and using eligible forestry to activate these entitlements?
- Question: I own a parcel of land that met the BPS requirements in 2008 (The planted land was declared on a 2008 SPS application, was eligible for SPS in 2008 and gave a right to payment under the 2008 Single Payment Scheme). The land was redlined in 2018 for SPS purposes due to encroachment of gorse. Can I now plant this parcel and use it to draw down full BPS entitlements as well as the forestry premiums?
Answer: Yes, provided:
- The land met all the required SPS criteria in 2008
- The land receives DAFM approval for planting and is carried out to required DAFM specifications
- If in doubt, clarify with BPS section in advance of planting
- Question: What are the requirements for hedgerows and trees in a line?
Answer: Hedgerows, trees in a line and drains/ditches have been designated as landscape features under Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition. This means it is not necessary to make deductions to parcel areas to account for these features but they must be retained.
Where in exceptional circumstances, it is necessary to remove a hedgerow, remove a line of trees or fill in a drain for good reasons such as farmyard expansion, the farmer may do so (not between 1 March - 31 August) provided a new hedgerow, new line of trees or drain of equal length and like for like i.e. a hedgerow is replaced with a hedgerow comprising traditional hedgerow species is planted or dug in advance of the removal of the old hedgerow, line of trees or drain on the farm holding.
Hedgerow species used must be traditional to the area and cannot include amenity species such as laurel or conifers. A hedgerow or line of trees planted in front of another hedgerow or planting a line of trees, or planting a grove of trees, is not considered fulfilling the replacement requirement. Every effort must be made to protect the newly created landscape feature e.g. fencing from cattle. Failure to abide by these rules will result in a cross compliance penalty.
Where it has been detected that a landscape feature has been removed/damaged in previous years, a sanction may be applied in the current year i.e. the year of the finding. In addition to the application of the sanction, a new hedgerow, line of trees or drain/ditch of equal length to the feature removed, must be planted or dug within 12 months. Otherwise a further cross compliance sanction will be applied.
Hedgerows cannot be removed between 1 March and 31 August. In the case of land designated as SAC or SPA, hedgerows or drains cannot be removed without the prior approval of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Hedgerows are field boundaries and as such are protected by the Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) Regulations 2011 and 2017. Where new hedgerows are planted or drains dug to replace hedgerows or drains removed, these become landscape features once the old hedgerow or drain is removed and consequently must be retained. Hedgerows or lines of trees planted under AEOS or GLAS are additional and cannot be accepted as replacement hedgerows for hedgerows removed.
- Question: What is the situation regarding removal of trees or scrub?
Answer: Before any tree or trees are felled, removed, or caused to fall, it is important to note that a tree felling licence may be required. In addition, land parcels described as "scrub" in the context of BPS may include trees and the entire area could be considered forestry under the Forestry Act, 2014. Landowners wishing to fell trees or clear scrub are strongly advised to contact the Forestry Division in the Department, to ensure a valid tree felling licence is in place before any work begins. The felling of a tree or trees or scrub that may be considered forestry, without a valid tree felling licence, could result in prosecution and might put BPS payments at risk.
- Question: What is the situation regarding leases and forestry?
Answer: An applicant who is leasing land may be eligible to receive the Afforestation Scheme grant and premiums with the appropriate documentation. However, the lease must comply with a number of requirements including the required duration of the lease.
The duration of the term of the lease must be at least 50 years where the crop is predominantly coniferous in nature, i.e. approximating the length of the conifer crop rotation and allowing time for reforestation. Longer leases may be required for broadleaf species as decided by DAFM.
- Question: Where a forestry second instalment grant and associated premium payment is held up following DAFM inspection due to the need for remediation works to bring the forest to an acceptable standard, and this delay runs for a period of two years or more, what would be the effect on entitlements, given the 'Two Year' rule?
Answer: one of the requirements of BPS eligibility of forestry parcels is that the forestry premium must be paid. Should there be a delay in forestry premium payment for a number of years then, it is not possible to make forestry parcels eligible in the years that payment is delayed which would then mean that there is a risk that entitlements could be lost if this land is being used to support entitlements. Should remediation works be done and forestry premium paid, then the BPS land eligibility would be examined by BPS section and if deemed eligible, the forestry eligible parcels would be updated. If there were entitlements lost, then the Entitlements Division make a decision on possible return of entitlements to the applicant on a case-by-case basis.