Greening farms is all about politicians and votes
The greening elements in the Commission's CAP reform proposals have gained political impetus, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney admitted at a series of farmer meetings last week.
The minister expressed mixed feelings on the greening measures put forward by Commissioner Dacian Ciolos but said farmers would probably have to work with them.
He said that he was pushing for a "green by definition" classification for farms participating in environmental programmes such as AEOS and farms with 75pc permanent pasture.
Mr Coveney said such farms should automatically qualify for greening payments.
He added it was likely that the target to ring-fence 30pc of the Single Farm Payment for greening would be reduced to somewhere between 20-25pc.
However, he admitted that greening would probably increase the inspection load on farms.
"We're obliged to inspect approximately 4pc of all farms covered by schemes at the moment, so I would expect the same to apply to this.
"Reports have shown that these latest reforms could increase the cost for member states to administer these schemes by 15pc," Mr Coveney told farmers last Thursday at a special information meeting in Mallow.
He also went into some detail on the three main components of the greening proposal -- permanent pasture, crop diversification and ecological focus areas.
Mr Coveney was confident that the first of these, the requirement to maintain the area of permanent pasture, would not cause problems for Irish livestock farmers -- apart from seeking some clarifications on reseeding.
However, he admitted that it would be problematical for tillage farmers.
"We are applying to get this applied on a national basis rather than an individual basis since the rules as they are currently designed will actually reduce our crop diversification," he said.
Mr Coveney was much more critical of the crop diversification measure that requires farmers growing more than 3ha of arable crops to grow a minimum of three different types of crop.
"This is a joke. It's just a nonsense," he said.
"But I think that this is more likely to go to 10ha or more.
"It could even end up being two crops if you are growing over 20ha and three crops for areas over 30ha," he added.
On the requirement for 7pc of the farm area to be an ecological focus area, the minister said that he expected forestry, marshlands and biomass crops to qualify for inclusion under this measure.
"However, I think the requirement could well be lowered to 4-5pc by the time the deal is done," he added.
- Darragh McCullough