Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

Forestry and Direct Payment Interactions 2024

Forestry and Direct Payment Interactions 2024

It’s that time of year again to focus on your Direct Payments and online application. In this article, Teagasc forestry specialist Tom Houlihan considers some key Direct Payment interactions with regard to forestry and trees on the farm.

Completing and submitting the online Basis Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) application is an essential milestone in the farming calendar. Given its significance in terms of the BISS payment and that of a range of other farm schemes, it is very important to give it the timely attention it deserves. This article and should be read in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine’s (DAFM’s) Terms and Conditions for BISS and Other 2024 Area Based Schemes.

Forestry and BISS

The good news is that, for qualifying applicants, the opportunity to continue to avail of BISS Scheme payments, in addition to generous forestry premiums on eligible afforested land in 2024, is one of a number of highly attractive benefits of the forestry option. In this regard, eligible land which was afforested in any year since 2009 or which will be planted in 2024, can be eligible to draw down the BISS Scheme payment in 2024 provided a number of conditions are satisfied, including the following:

  • For forestry planted in 2023 and 2024, the land to be planted gave a right to payment under the Basic Payment Scheme (2015-2022)
  • For forestry planted between January 2009 and December 2022, the land must have been deemed eligible land in 2008 and must have received SPS payment in 2008, prior to being planted under the Afforestation Scheme from January 2009
  • Farmers who wish to benefit from the BISS Payment on afforested land must be the person or persons named as the forestry scheme beneficiary or joint beneficiary. This means that you, as the BISS applicant(s), must be the person or persons eligible for the payment of the forestry premium in the relevant year and have your name included on the forestry contract.

Note: This requirement may impinge on and must be fully considered in advance in cases where planted land is being transferred, including within families. The 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 BISS section to examine the plots for eligibility.
  • Eligible forestry parcels that are declared on BISS applications to activate entitlements will also be subject to conditionality requirements.

Complementary Redistributive Income Support for Sustainability (CRISS) Scheme

The CRISS Scheme (also referred to as ‘Front Loading’) was introduced in 2023. Its objective is to redistribute funds from larger to smaller and medium-sized farms. The CRISS Scheme is independent of payment entitlements in that it is paid per eligible hectare but requires applicants to have at least one payment entitlement as part of scheme eligibility.

Forestry parcels deemed eligible in the 2024 BISS application can also be eligible to receive payment under the CRISS.

Eco Scheme and Forestry

The Eco-Scheme is a voluntary annual scheme open for participation to active farmers. To qualify for payment, farmers are required to undertake specific Agricultural Practices on their farm. Payment under the Eco-Scheme is an annual payment for all eligible hectares covered by the commitments undertaken. Each farmer will have the opportunity to opt in or out on an annual basis. Agricultural Practices chosen may also be changed on a yearly basis at the farmer’s discretion based on their capacity to qualify. Farmers will apply for the Eco-Scheme at the same time as their application for the BISS. Entitlements are not required for the Eco-Scheme. A farmer may submit their Eco-Scheme application in conjunction with their BISS application.

The Eco-Scheme has eight separate Agricultural Practices (APs, see Fig. 1) to choose from. For example, AP 1 incorporates the provision of Space for Nature. Three of these practices have an enhanced option. A farmer must successfully deliver two APs (or one suitable enhanced option under AP 1, AP 2, or AP 4) to qualify for an Eco-Scheme payment. It is important to note that the options available for AP selection can be affected by the proportions of forestry and/or commonage on an applicant’s holdings (see pages 18-33 of the BISS Terms and Conditions).

Agricultural practice option under the Eco Scheme: space for nature, extensive livestock production, limiting chemical N use, planting native trees, use of gps fertiliser spreaders, soil sampling and liming, planting of break crop, sowing multispecies swards

Figure 1: Agricultural practice option under the Eco Scheme    Source: DAFM 2023

GAEC 8 and Eco Scheme Space for Nature

Conditionality sets baseline requirements for farmers in receipt of CAP payments and includes nine standards set out for Good Agriculture and Environmental Condition (GAEC). For example, one of the requirements, under GAEC 8, comprises a minimum share of agricultural land devoted to non-productive areas or features of 4%.

Under Agricultural Practice 1, the Eco Scheme will reward farmers who allocate 7% of their land to features listed as Space for Nature. This will count as one Eco-Scheme practice and is the standard option. Farmers, where appropriate, can also choose to devote at least 10% of their land to Space for Nature (non-productive areas and landscape features (where deemed available) and can thereby qualify for their full Eco-Scheme Payment.

All forestry lands are exempt from GAEC 8 estimates. Within the parameters of GAEC 8 and Eco-Scheme Space for Nature, the following definitions apply:

  • Forestry comprises areas planted for commercial or other purpose (including currently or previously grant-aided forests)
  • Woodland is a naturally occurring area of land on which many trees grow over time and has not previously been grant aided.

Space for nature percentage and payment

  • Page 21 of the BISS Terms and Conditions also outlines the features qualifying under Space for Nature and their weighting.
  • On forestry parcels, appropriate non-productive features can count towards the Eco-Scheme Space for Nature percentage estimate. Features such as suitable hedges, drains and sub-features (e.g. scrub,) that are present on forestry parcels may be mapped and counted towards this percentage estimate. The forestry crop itself (productive area) does not count towards the Space for Nature percentage.  
  • Suitable non-productive features on ineligible forestry can be included in the Space for Nature percentage estimate. However, Eco Scheme payment can only be made on eligible hectares (including eligible forestry), subject to meeting criteria, and is not payable on ineligible forestry parcels.

Completing your BISS application

When filling your BISS application, the status of your forestry parcels must be accurately reflected in terms of the Parcel Use declared. Table 1 provides a summary of BISS application parcel use inputs that will vary according to the timing and nature of forest establishment.

Table 1: BISS Application Parcel Use inputs

Timing of Forest Establishment

Input on BISS Form (Parcel Use)

Parcels planted before 2009 (Ineligible)


(Claimed area as zero)

Eligible parcels (including granted-aided agroforestry) planted between 2009 and 2023 (inclusive)

1) If pre-printed as “Forestry Eligible” on online form, LEAVE AS IS.

2) Otherwise enter “Forestry 2023” (irrespective of the planting year since 2009) ensuring the correct and appropriate CLAIMED AREA is included.

For 2) above, also input SUPPORTING INFORMATION regarding the forestry parcel in the “Notes” section of the “REVIEW and SUBMIT” screen of the online application, and include the following:

  • Forestry parcel number
  • Planting year
  • Eligible and Claimed areas
  • Confirm such parcels meet all BISS requirements for eligible forestry (as appropriate)*

Eligible parcels (including grant-aided agroforestry) planted or in the process of being planted in 2024 before BISS deadline


Forestry 2024” *


Parcels to be planted in 2024 but not yet started at the date of BPS submission

Applicants who plant forestry in 2024, after BISS submission are not required to amend the parcel use to Forestry. This will be picked up by Direct Payments Section when processing the application

Accurate parcel use as of date of BISS form submission


No requirement for parcel use amendment upon subsequent planting

*Applicants with agroforestry entering the Organic Farming Scheme 2024

Under the Terms and Conditions of the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) 2024 (Revised 1st November 2023), land declared as Agroforestry can qualify for OFS payment, at the drystock rate, subjective to meeting eligibility criteria. OFS applicants with land planted under agroforestry prior to 2024 should have a pre-printed parcel use of “Forestry Eligible”.

For agroforestry being planted in 2024 under the Forestry Programme 2023-2027, the parcel use should be “Forestry 2024”. In addition, OFS applicants should confirm the agroforestry status of all eligible agroforestry parcels by including the parcel number, planting year, eligible and claimed areas and confirming the parcel is agroforestry, is used for agriculture and meets all requirements under the OFS, as appropriate, within the Notes section in the Review and Submit screen of the online application.

Ensure correct areas for all eligible parcels on BISS

It is essential to check the statement of land and maps and ensure the correct eligible hectare areas and claimed areas are entered in your BISS application for all eligible forestry parcels. For example, if the claimed area is pre-printed as zero 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 premia payments under your afforestation measure has concluded, there is further good new in that these parcels can remain eligible for BISS, subject to maintaining your mandatory commitment to that particular afforestation measure by complying with the provisions set out in the Forestry Act 2014. This includes Agroforestry.


With a range of new schemes included in the BISS application and beneficial interactions with regard to forestry, it is important to give it timely attention to ensure the application accurately reflects the position of all parcels on the applicant’s holding.

Further information and support is available through your local Teagasc forestry advisor. A more detailed support document covering forestry issues will shortly be available on the forestry section of the Teagasc Website.