The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has confirmed that proposals are being examined which may include recommending a ban on ploughing and the use of minimum till/no till cultivation techniques on carbon rich soils.
The details were revealed to the Independent TD for Laois Offaly, Carol Nolan, by Charlie McConalogue.
This was in response to a parliamentary question she submitted seeking confirmation of plans to prohibit ploughing on certain land areas in the midland counties.
Deputy Nolan said she had been approached by farmers and landowners who had become aware that such plans were in the pipeline and were deeply alarmed by the possible implications for land use practices.
Minister McConalogue informed Deputy Nolan that within the CAP Strategic Plan (CSP), the term conditionality refers to the legislative requirements and minimum standards that farmers in receipt of CAP payments must comply with in the period from 2023 to 2027.
This replaces the so called “Cross Compliance” requirements in the current CAP.
However, the conditionality requirements in the CSP are being implemented using two mechanisms: Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) and Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC).
According to Minister McConalogue, the main objective of GAEC 2 is the preservation of carbon-rich soils, which requires protection of wetland and peatland to be implemented within each Member State. Ireland has indicated in the CSP that this standard will apply from 2024.
It was also revealed that at present Ireland is working in conjunction with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre to identify the relevant lands that will be affected by any future ploughing or tilling prohibitions.
The inclusion of a ban on ploughing, or the use of min till/no till cultivation techniques would, according to the Minister, be examples of the kind of appropriate minimum standards needed to protect carbon rich soil. These will be considered following a mapping and review process.
Commenting on the reply, Deputy Nolan said that any prospect of a prohibition on ploughing or tilling on land that is currently being used for such purposes will ‘send a shiver down farmers spines.’:
Deputy Nolan said: “One of the concerns I have involves just how far the EU, with the support of our own Government, is going to throw the net; just how much ‘relevant land’ will be captured and what will be the financial implications for farmers who are already struggling.
“If their ploughing land is taken from them by EU diktat, what will that mean in real terms?
“There is a need for far greater levels of clarity and engagement on this matter, because at present all that farmers are hearing are whispers of threats about the adverse designation of their land.
“I will be engaging further with the Minister and the department on the matter as well as with farming organisations and representatives. We need to know what the end-point of this process is going to look like, and we need to know now.”
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