Honeybees and Farmers, Obstacles to Co- existence
By Jude Walsh, Ballina, Co Mayo
Honeybees and the environment seem to be the buzz words presently. However, farming on designated land seems to bring about a lot of contradictions. The Department of Agriculture under the new CAP rules, seems to bring this to the fore.
They make differences between eligible and ineligible land. They see only eligible land as being land used in traditional ways, land for which farmers receive a payment.
Farmers in most parts of the country could rectify this by removing scrub, and were encouraged to do so or else face penalties. Prior to 2013, huge amounts of so-called ineligible features were removed from agricultural land.
Ineligible features include gorse, bramble, rose bay willow herb and overgrown features, to name just few. This, of course, was detrimental to honeybees and other pollinators.
However, if you own designated land you must seek permission and abide by 30 rules and conditions. This therefore puts many farmers in these areas at a disadvantage, as they have to omit these areas from their CAP application forms.
You are only paid on so-called eligibleland.Farmers who include ineligible features, face huge financial penalties. If 20% of their land is ineligible, they lose their whole payment for that year.
That must be paid back with interest. Honeybees and pollinators are getting small chance of survival, and farmers on this marginal land will become extinct. Ideally beekeepers and farmers should be encouraged and supported to coexist. Figure 1 Marsh Saxifrage The Department of Agriculture using satellite images, described vast amounts of marginal and designated land (SACNHA) as ineligible.
Some of my land is classified as a Special Area of Conservation, with the most wonderful floral displays from midsummer till late October.
I have observed some unique and special flowers, including Wildabouts, knapweed, rosebay willow herb, wild ling heather and, most important of all; Marsh Saxifrage, the rarest flower in Western Europe.
There are only 3 known locations in this whole country where this flower survives. This flower has been extensively studied by the late Caoimhe Muldoon; her research is well worth looking up. All of these special species of flowers encouraged me to keep honeybees in this wild landscape.
The bees flourished on these lands, and produced wonderful summer and autumn honey. My belief about this forage was confirmed when this honey won first place in the category of Light Summer Honey at the Mayo Honey Show.
Not only that, the heather honey from this location also won first place, in a county which prides itself on heather and bog flora. This is a prime example of a Public Good, the definition of which is when this item has been used by one individual it does not diminish the satisfaction achieved by the next individual who uses it. I believe my parcel of land is the most perfect example of this.
The bees use the flowers in the summer, and the sheep subsequently graze the land and derive benefit from it over winter. After receiving a severe Department of Agriculture penalty, Jude decided to seek some answers on land eligibility.
Marian Harkin asked the EU a number of questions on his behalf
Question 1. Is beekeeping an agricultural activity?
Question 2. Can an agricultural area include an area of dense scrub that issued for beekeeping?
Question 3.Can an area used for keeping of bees, be considered and eligible hectare?
Mr Hogan replied in 09-09-2016 on behalf of the EU commission The receipt of payments is directly subject to the area being used predominantly for agricultural activities.
beekeeping can be regarded as an agricultural activity as honey is an agricultural product listed in Annex 1 to the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
Yes as long as shrubs can be grazed and are part of a permanent grassland or pasture in which grasses or other herbaceous forage remain predominate.
An agricultural area used for beekeeping can only be eligible if it is maintained in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation. If anyone else believes there should be a special case for honeybees and designated land. Feel free to contact Jude Walsh Mayo Beekeepers Association.