New restrictions in 2015 for farmers with areas of environmentally sensitive permanent grassland

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From 1 January 2015 farmers will not be allowed to plough or convert permanent grassland in areas designated as environmentally sensitive under the Habitats Directive and/or the Birds Directive.

CAP Reform will introduce the Basic Payment Scheme, a Greening Payment and a Young Farmer’s Payment. Greening forms an integral part of CAP Reform and its focus is on introducing farming practices that are beneficial for the climate and the environment.

An important part of implementing greening is land classification. Individual fields have been provisionally classified by DARD as either permanent grassland, arable or permanent crops.

However, DARD is also required to classify permanent grassland in fields covered by the Habitats Directive and/or the Birds Directive, including in peat and wetlands situated in these areas. The classification allocated to these fields is known as Permanent Grassland Sensitive (PGS). These fields will be classified as PGS if 10% or more of the field area or an area greater than 0.1 hectares lies within the designated area.

For fields classified as PGS, the ploughing and conversion ban will apply to the part of the field designated as environmentally sensitive under the Habitats Directive and/or the Birds Directive.

DARD will be issuing letters to those farmers whose records indicate that their field(s) are classified as PGS and a list of the fields in question is provided in the Annex to the letter.

DARD will be undertaking checks to ensure compliance with these rules. Failure to comply with the above restrictions may result in a reduction to your Greening Payment.

Any permanent grassland field that has been identified as having less than 10% of the field area and not more than 0.1 hectares inside the designated area will not be classified as PGS and will not be subject to the ploughing and conversion ban. However, the protection afforded to these areas under the Habitats Directive and/or the Birds Directive will still apply. You are also still subject to the cross compliance requirements for these areas.

Further Information

If you wish to find out more about the land that is classified as PGS you should contact your local DARD Direct Office who will be able to advise you on the precise area within your field(s) that are covered by the Habitats Directive and/or the Birds Directive, the restrictions that apply and the options you have.

Alternatively, you can email your query to: greeninghelpline@dardni.gov.uk or you can call the Grants and Funding Helpline on 0300 200 7848.

Farmers who will be farming additional land in 2015, may contact their local DARD Direct Office to ascertain whether it is classified as Permanent Grassland Sensitive.

Further information on CAP Reform, including the greening requirements, can be accessed on the DARD website at:

http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/grants-and-funding/countdown-to-cap.htm