Farm scheme flexibility: FF backs calls for ANC rule change

It is vital that the Department of Agriculture has full engagement with the European Commission for farm scheme flexibility in light of Covid-19, according to Fianna Fáil spokesperson on agriculture Charlie McConalogue.

The Donegal TD also backed calls made by the Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) for a reduction in the retention period for Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) payments from seven to five months to ease pressure on farmers and marts at this time.

Commenting on the current situation, deputy McConalogue said: “We have seen a trojan national effort by citizens and state authorities to battle this virus and all should be commended in their efforts.

“Farmers and the agri-food industry have not been found wanting in ensuring that produce continues to be available on supermarket shelves.”

The spokesperson added that farmers “are taking all necessary precautions” and following guidance from the Health Service Executive.

Given the centrality of maintaining food security and supply lines during the current crisis, I believe that it is incumbent on the department to engage with the EU Commission and ensure flexibility in the operation of farm schemes if required.

“All 2020 scheme payment deadlines must also be maintained and communication channels with the commission kept open on issues such as inspections.

“In order to comply with social distancing best practice, I would echo the calls of ICOS for stocking rules under the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme to be relaxed so that all farmers do not have to go to marts at this time.”

Continuing, he added:

Such a move would enable farmers a longer period of time from which to purchase animals from marts, which will be required in cases to meet stocking density rules under the scheme.

“This is a challenging time for farmers, and we need to do everything to support them, while adhering to HSE guidance”, concluded deputy McConalogue