Funding for the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme needs to be increased in Budget 2018, as farmers in marginal areas are already struggling to survive, Fianna Fail TD Eugene Murphy said.

The Roscommon/Galway TD attended a recent IFA briefing for Oireachtas members in Dublin, which outlined the key priorities for the ongoing review of ANCs.

This included the protection of areas currently in the scheme and increased payments for those farming in these marginal areas, he said.

“It is crucial that funding for the ANC scheme is increased in Budget 2018 – this will require an increase in the current funding level from €205m to €250m.

Many farmers in marginal areas endured reductions of up to €1,000, which is a very significant amount for farmers on low incomes.

“The restoration of these cuts is long overdue and the Government must ensure this forms part of the ANC review.

“Direct payments such as ANCs are crucial to sustain farming on marginal land and they play a critical role in supporting rural economies in peripheral areas,” he said.

The Fianna Fail Deputy said that it is crucial that areas designated as ANC must be protected and additional areas that were excluded in the past, due to the criteria applying at that time, must now be considered for inclusion.

We need to protect existing ANC areas, as well as ensuring that payment rates for all qualifying areas reflect the natural disadvantage.

“Other issues such as low productivity, marginal land, areas subject to flooding, reduced growing season, low stocking rates, slopes, coastal areas subject to erosion, altitude and soil type – all of these criteria should also be taken into account,” he said.