The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has recently unveiled modifications to the guidelines pertaining to GAEC Standard 6 (Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition). This standard plays a pivotal role in the obligatory conditions associated with the rollout of the Basic Income Support for Sustainability Scheme (BISS) within the framework of the new CAP Strategic Plan (CSP).
The primary aim of GAEC Standard 6 is to safeguard soil against poaching and erosion by enforcing a baseline level of soil coverage, typically in the form of green cover. The overarching goal is to prevent the exposure of bare soil during critical periods.
These alterations come in response to concerns voiced by farmers regarding the practicality and impact of certain measures mandated by the standard.
The key changes unveiled encompass the following:
Stubble Inclusion: Stubble will now be considered an acceptable component of the required lie-back area.
However, certain conditions must be met, including:
- ensuring animals have continuous access to this area.
- establishing sufficient green cover in accordance with the stubble management requirements outlined in the Nitrates Regulations.
- preventing repeated poaching of both the lie-back area and the catch crop area.
Minimum Land Allocation: As previously announced, a minimum of 30% of the total land area must be designated for the lie-back.
Grass Buffer Enhancement: GAEC 6 mandates the maintenance of a 3m grass buffer strip around the outer perimeter of the parcel/area dedicated to catch crops. An expanded buffer strip of 4m is required alongside watercourses. Importantly, this buffer strip may also serve as part of the lie-back area.
It is essential to clarify that livestock may graze on the entire area designated under these regulations. However, landowners are obligated to manage their parcels meticulously to prevent excessive poaching or damage, which could ultimately result in soil erosion—a matter of critical importance.
The Department pledges to closely monitor the implementation of the GAEC 6 standard to ensure that its objectives are being effectively met. Furthermore, these arrangements will undergo a thorough review based on practical experience and feedback.
If you would like to learn more about GAECs, SMRs or Cross-compliance, please click here for a full breakdown.
Image source: FarmPeat EIP Project