Basic Payment Scheme
Tom Houlihan, forestry specialist with Teagasc explains how to correctly complete your BPS application when you have forestry on the farm.
Eligibility of Forestry for Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) 2020
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 2020 can continue to be eligible for a BPS payment in 2020 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.
- Applicants who wish to benefit from the BPS on afforested land must be the person or persons in joint management of receipt of the afforestation premium. This applies to members of the same family.
- The BPS applicant’s name also must appear on both the herd number and forestry contract number for the forestry parcel(s) to be considered BPS eligible.
Note: This requirement may impinge on and must be fully considered in cases where planted land is being transferred, including within families. The Department’s 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 previous retention requirement (i.e. obligation to retain at least 10% in an agricultural activity subject to a minimum area of 3 hectares) does not apply for new planting during 2020.
- In addition, the retention requirement (3 ha / 10% retention rule) is not required to ensure continued eligibility for forests planted prior to 2020. Therefore, if an applicant planted 90% of his/her land in any year between 2009 and 2019, s/he is not required to comply with previous rule (3ha / 10% retention) in order to continue claiming BPS entitlements on forested land.
- If the applicant plants in 2020, the land still must meet the other eligibility rules in the bullet points above, but s/he can plant all their land and claim BPS payment in 2020.
When filling the BPS application, the status of forestry parcels must be accurately reflected in terms of Parcel Use on the back of the 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.
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 from 2009 to 2019 (inclusive)
If pre-printed as Forestry Eligible on online form, LEAVE AS IS.
Otherwise should be entered according to the forestry year:
Eligible Parcels already planted or in the process of being planted in 2020 before BPS deadline of 15 May
Parcels to be planted in 2020 but not yet started at the date of BPS submission
Parcels to be planted in 2020 after the date of BPS submission: appropriate amendment should be made online
It is important that applicants who plant forestry in 2020, 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 2020 as parcel use on amendment
It is strongly recommended to check the preprinted statement of land and maps and ensure the correct claimed area is included in the BPS application for all eligible forestry parcels.
If the Maximum Eligible Area (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.
Amendments to 2020 BPS applications, including the addition of parcels, may be made online up to 31 May. Late amendments with additional parcels or amended claimed areas will be accepted online up to 9 June but with a penalty.
A range of other BPS issues with forestry relevance may arise, some of which are listed below:
- Eligible Forestry parcels declared on BPS applications to activate entitlements will also be subject to cross-compliance requirements
- 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
- it has independent and proper access
- it is fenced
- it has a water supply
- an agricultural activity is being carried out on it by the applicant (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 outlined above
- 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
Land Availability Rule
To claim payments under the 2020 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 2020 or for a period before 31 May 2020 to 31 December 2020) and either be maintained as agricultural land for the 2020 calendar year or planted under the Afforestation Scheme in 2020.
Two-Year Usage of Entitlements
All entitlements allocated under BPS and the National Reserve are subject to a two-year usage rule. 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. Your entitlement usage position may be viewed on the DAFM online facility www.agfood.ie.
All farmers eligible for payment under the BPS are subject to greening. However, over 90% of applicants will automatically qualify for the Greening Payment based on their current farming practices (e.g. more than 75% permanent pasture).
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 obligations. For example if an applicant has more than 15 hectares of eligible arable land, 5% of this area must be in Ecological Focus Area (EFA), unless they qualify for an exemption (DAFM BPS T&Cs page 54).
BPS-eligible forestry, Short Rotation Coppice, field copse and hedgerows are reckonable as Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) if declared as EFA in the application. For forestry to be eligible, ensure it satisfies the eligibility requirements under the Basic Payment Scheme (DAFM BPS T&Cs page 76). 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 (DAFM BPS T&Cs pages 58/59). 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 (DAFM BPS T&Cs pages34/35 (re Landscape Features) and pages 53/56 re qualification criteria, conversion and weighting factors for EFA purposes). It should be noted that hedgerows situated on parcels where the area is declared for EFA purposes, i.e. Nitrogen-fixing Crops, Catch Crops, Short Rotation Coppice and BPS-eligible forestry cannot be used as EFA landscape features in the same year.
Field copses are areas of trees/scrub that, to be eligible as an EFA, must be in or adjacent to an arable parcel. A Field Copse greater than 0.3 hectares qualifies as an EFA area from 2018 but the EFA contribution is capped at 0.45 ha (0.3 X 1.5). A field copse of 0.3 ha is equivalent to 0.45 ha of EFA. To qualify as a Field Copse an area must meet the following requirements:
- Must be adjacent to (i.e. 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 number and be declared as ‘Copse’. A copse is not eligible for payment under the BPS and/or Area of Natural Constraints Scheme (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, that is 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. That means, 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 (DAFM BPS T&Cs page 60).
Additional Important Questions and Answers:
- Question: Can an applicant who buys forested land that meets all the requirements to be BPS-eligible (referred to above) use this forestry to activate purchased entitlements?
Answer: Yes, provided:
- all eligibility requirements are met,
- the forestry contract number is in the name of the BPS applicant and
- the applicant is eligible for forest premium payment in the BPS scheme year in question.
- Question: Can a farmer who owns land and entitlements, choose to plant the owned land and claim BPS entitlement payments on land s/he might rent/lease in?
Answer: Yes, if this is the landowner's choice.
Please also note, the previous requirement for applicants planting: 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 (in order to continue to be regarded as an active farmer) for the purpose of retaining BPS eligibility does not apply for new planting during 2020. Therefore, if a BPS applicant in 2020, s/he can plant all land and claim 2020 BPS payment on this planted land. Also, the 3 ha/10% retention is not required to ensure continued eligibility, for forests planted before 2020.
- 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: 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 GAEC. 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 (please note: hedgerows cannot be removed 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. Every effort must be made to protect the newly created landscape feature e.g. fencing from stock. Hedgerows must be maintained and not allowed to become invasive, thereby reducing the eligible area of the field and consequently impacting on the eligible area of the relevant parcel. The height of the hedgerow is not a concern, however its width at the base must be maintained at a reasonable width. See DAFM BPS T&Cs pages 34/35 for further information.
- 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.