This week, the Department of Agriculture opened the 2024 application process for the majority of farmers for the 2024 Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS).

Online applications must be submitted before this year’s closing date of Wednesday 15 May 2024.

The BISS application portal is also the application gateway for numerous other schemes, including the Complementary Redistributive Income Support for Sustainability (CRISS), Eco Scheme, Complementary Income Support for Young Farmers (CIS-YF) / National Reserve, Protein Aid and transfer of entitlements.

A BISS information pack containing farm maps, land details and help sheets will be circulated by post in the coming days.

Delayed applications

As touched on above, the application portal has opened for the majority of farmers, but some applicants will not be able to submit applications from the outset.

One such cohort is farmers who have submitted an application to Tranche II of the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES).

The delay for these farmers is due to the fact that the 4,000 available ACRES applications have not yet been assigned, leaving in the region of 9,000 farmers in this category.

The Department stated on Tuesday that “in the case of ACRES Tranche II applicants, access to the BISS application system will be made available on a gradual basis over the coming weeks, as approvals issue and as the required updates to mapping systems are made”.

The Department has not explained what other categories of farmers are as yet unable to apply. A spokesperson stated: “As is customary at the opening of the applications window, certain groups of applicants will not be able to apply at the very start.

"This is to ensure that the farmer and adviser have access to all relevant information when submitting the BISS application, which in turn supports the Department in processing applications as efficiently as possible.

“Access for these applicants will be provided in ample time to allow all applications to be made before the closing date.”

Important advice

Farmers and advisers are being urged to submit applications as soon as possible to ensure that the maximum timeframe is available to address any deficiencies and prevent a backlog in applications.

Departmental tips for completing applications include checking to ensure that applicants have correctly applied for the Areas of Natural Constraint and Eco Scheme, if applicable.

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Both of these schemes are voluntary schemes, which must be applied for. The majority of farmers will once again fulfil the obligations of the Eco Scheme by selecting the measure, Space for Nature.

Applicants are also reminded that annual payment claims for the Straw Incorporation Measure, ACRES and the Organic Farming Scheme can also be made online.

Entitlement values

It is important to note that many entitlement values will continue to change in 2024 under 85% convergence in the CAP Strategic Plan.

The new average BISS entitlement value is approximately €156.64. If the 2023 base unit value was higher than the BISS national average value, then the value in excess of this average is subject to annual reductions, which will continue in 2024.

If the 2023 base unit value was between 90% and 100% of the BISS national average, then entitlement values will remain unchanged across the years 2023 to 2026.

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If the 2023 base unit value was below €139.18 (90% of average BISS value), then the value of entitlements will increase from 2023 to 2026.

All entitlement values must have a value of at least 85% of the BISS national average by 2026. The maximum value of entitlements by 2026 will be in the region of €285.

The Department does not plan to send out a new statement of entitlements in 2024 similar to the statement circulated in March 2023.

This statement stated how entitlement values would be affected by convergence from 2023 to 2026. This statement is available to view via an applicant’s agfood.ie portal.

Transfer of entitlements

The transfer of entitlements facility also opened on Tuesday. For those entering in to long-term lease agreements in 2024, it is important to establish the value of BISS entitlements in the coming years and also to include a mechanism to protect all parties from entitlement values undergoing further change in the next CAP reform.

It is important to note that the amnesty on the clawback of entitlements sold without lands will continue for 2024. The amnesty means that the 20% clawback rule is paused again in 2024.

The two-year amnesty is due to finish in 2024 and be reintroduced for the 2025 scheme year.

New developments

The Department has added a new facility to their mapping system on agfood.ie for 2024, with the addition of location data on badger setts throughout the country.

The location of setts stems from a combination of surveys carried out by the Wildlife Unit, along with farmer notification through the Department’s badger app.

Turning on the new Badger Setts Layer function on the mapping system will identify known locations, which the Department says will “allow farmers to fence off identified badger setts to ensure cattle would not have access to the sett opening where the risk of TB transmission is highest”.