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When will the Programme open?

The Programme opens for expressions of interest from farmers with land in Hen Harrier SPAs on 8th December 2017.

What will the application process involve?

The farmer applies by submitting an Expression of Interest Form. This is a single page form requesting name, address, telephone and herd number. The Project will use this form to request access to the applicants Basic Payment Scheme details through the DAFM GLAMS system.

How will the Project complement GLAS and other Basic Payment Schemes?

The compatibility of the Hen Harrier Programme was the issue most frequently raised by farmers at consultation meetings. This is understandable as direct payments are an essential support and farmers cannot afford to put these at risk. The Hen Harrier Programme has been designed to ensure that it is compatible with ANC, BPS and GLAS. There are three types of payment under the Hen Harrier Project:

Supporting actions include measures designed to help the farmer address issues affecting habitat quality. These include, support for improving access, provision of drinking water and targeted grazing infrastructure. Training and advisory support will focus on helping the farmer get the optimum benefit from extensive grazing by dealing with the animal health and nutritional requirements of livestock on upland sites. This approach is designed to help the farmer utilise the grazing animal to deliver the desired environmental outcomes. This will have the added benefit of demonstrating agricultural activity on parcels and help secure continued eligibility for direct payments. The Project will be operating in compliance with DAFM Guide to Land Eligibility (2015) and all Project participants are obliged to ensure they are aware of the particular status of their lands and the conditions applying in regard to direct payments.

How will the scoring system work and who does it?

All eligible land will be scored annually with a user-friendly scorecard. The potential points for each field are set by the Hen Harrier Project team in the Farm Plan. The proportion of these earned each year is based on the score for that field. Higher scores earn a greater proportion of the points available, leading in turn to higher payments. This gives the farmer the incentive to manage their fields in ways that improve the condition of habitats and increase their payments.

An annual works plan, completed by a Hen Harrier Farm Advisor contains a list of actions nominated by the farmer. These actions facilitate the enhancement of habitats for the benefit of the Hen Harrier and optimise the participants potential to benefit from increased habitat payments.

Where can I get a trained Hen Harrier Advisor?

The Hen Harrier Farm Plan is prepared by the Hen Harrier Project team, the farm advisor helps the farmer score the habitats on each field and to produce an Annual Works Plan. The Project will train and approve Hen Harrier Farm Advisors. A list of trained advisors will be distributed to all farmers who have been offered a contract. A list will also be made available on the Hen Harrier Project website.

Who pays for the Hen Harrier Farm Plan?

The Hen Harrier Project will produce the initial Farm Plan at no cost to the Farmer. This is being done as part of a series of measures to reduce the impact of advisory costs on farmers. These costs are a concern for many farmers. A number of issues contribute to this:

These issues are explored in more detail below:

While direct payments from the project to advisors would reduce cash flow issues for farmers, it does create other difficulties, these include linking the advisor too closely to the project team raising the question who does the advisor work for? and potentially greater overall advisory costs. A hybrid approach where the project would pay the initial costs and farmers pay the annual costs was considered. This was rejected as it could lead to an expectation that direct payments to advisors would continue leading to confusion and frustration on the part of both advisors and farmers alike. It was decided to incorporate advisory costs into the habitat payments to farmers rather than pay advisors directly as:

What are the Restrictions on Farming in Hen Harrier Special Protection Areas?

There has been some confusion and misinformation on current Notifiable Actions in Hen Harrier SPAs. To clarify, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), part of the Heritage Division of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is responsible for the designation and disseminating advice on the protection of habitats and species identified for nature conservation (Natural Heritage Areas (NHA), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA). It is the responsibility of NPWS to see that designated sites are protected from significant damage. Where a landowner is considering making changes on his farm that might affect the wildlife habitat in a designated area, he must consult the local NPWS Conservation Ranger beforehand. Notifiable Actions are activities or operations that might be damaging and can only be carried out with the permission of the Minister.

Only three activities are subject to notifiable action consent by the Minister in Hen Harrier SPAs. These are:

Notifiable Action consent is not required for activities specified in a Hen Harrier Programme Farm Plan, as any activities covered in the plan are approved by NPWS. Activities not included in an approved REPS, AEOS, GLAS, NPWS, or Hen Harrier Programme plan require separate Notifiable Action consent.

Participation in the Hen Harrier Programme does not exempt the farmer from cross compliance sanctions or prosecution.The Under the conditions of cross compliance, farmers in receipt of basic payment must adhere to Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) and abide by the Birds and Habitats Directives, in addition to other Statutory Management Requirements.

The requirement for Screening for Appropriate Assessment to be undertaken under Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive and submitted with any planning application for development of land in SPA areas is a planning issue for the Local Authority and are beyond the remit of the Hen Harrier Project. The Hen Harrier Project will however assist participants with Screening for Appropriate Assessment arising from agricultural activities.

Can I plant my land in the Hen Harrier SPAs?

The Hen Harrier Project is an agri-environment programme and has no role in forestry activities. The Forest Service of the DAFM is the body responsible for regulating key forestry activities, including afforestation and forest road constriction (under S.I.558 / 2010), thinning and felling/replanting (under the 1946 Forestry Act, to be replaced with the 2014 Forestry Act (to be commenced) and aerial fertilisation of forests (under S.I. 125/2012). The Forest Service provides grant schemes and other supports to promote various components of the forest sector, principally afforestation and forest road construction. The Forest Service also has key responsibilities under other environmental legislation, including European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I.477 / 2011), which imposes an obligation on the Forest Service to be responsible for relevant aspects of the Birds and Habitats Directives.

Can Commonage enter the Programme?

Yes, Commonage which may be eligible for payment shall mean lands included in the DAFMs commonage container and farmed in common. On commonage lands, payment will only be made to Project participants, it is up to them to ensure that such actions have the support of the other shareholders. There will be no distinction in the system used to calculate payments between commonage and privately-owned land or between owned and leased or rented land. There will be no distinction in the system used to calculate payments between Commonage and privately-owned land or between owned and leased or rented land. However, each commonage must be scored by a single advisor acting on behalf of all participants. There is nothing to stop advisors working with different shareholders co-operating on this task. This is necessary to avoid the anomalous situation where different scores could be applied to the same parcel of land. In many cases the GLAS commonage advisor may be in a position to do this. Where this is not possible the Hen Harrier Project will work with farmers to identify a solution.

How will the Programme deal with Eligibility issues and DAFM Penalties?

The Hen Harrier Programme is an agri-environmental programme. Land abandonment is not a desired outcome of the programme. Farming for conservation in the uplands will sustain agricultural production and the provision of ecosystem services, it will also demonstrate activity on land and help secure its eligibility for direct payments. 

Farmers in SPA lands are protected under Article 32 (2) (b) (i) of Regulation (EU) No 1307/2013. This allows lands that would otherwise be considered ineligible to be paid on provided that:

The issue of scrub control and the effect of scrub on land eligibility was raised by many farmers. Scrub that has expanded since 2008 may have been redlined on BPS maps. This land may be covered under Article 32, where this is the case the Hen Harrier Project will work with participants and DAFM to regularise the situation. Where scrub control is needed to improve access or to manage habitats the Hen Harrier Project will assist the participant to obtain the required consents. In some cases, scrub management may be paid for as a supporting action under the programme. The Hen Harrier Project will work with the Dept. of Agriculture and farmers to further clarify progress these issue.