Farmers who engage in environmentally-sensitive farming practices will be entitled to up to €7,000 per year in European Union and State funds under rural development proposals just finalised by the Department of Agriculture.

The proposals will now be submitted to the European Commission.

There will also be extra payments available for farmers for conserving farmland birds and for participating in genotyping of beef cattle.

Under so-called pillar two payments of the new Common Agriculture Policy, €4bn will be spent on the rural development programme over the next six years.

The main component of that will be the new agri-environment scheme called GLAS, which will give 50,000 participating farmers €5,000 per year for environmentally-sensitive farming, with an additional €2,000 for those who take further steps to protect some farmland birds, bats, bees and hedgerows.

Beef farmers, much in the news recently because of poor prices, can avail of €80 per beef cow for providing bovine genetic samples to a new database aimed at improving the national beef herd.

There will also be increased payments to support farmers in areas of poor land, on islands, and those who engage in organic farming practices.