The Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) review must ensure that no farmer who currently qualifies for the scheme will lose out, Fianna Fail Agriculture and Food Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue has said.

The Department of Agriculture is currently reviewing the designation of eligible areas under the ANC scheme.

From 2018, eligible areas are being re-designated according to a set of bio-physical criteria and presently, the scheme is based on a range of socio-economic factors.

“Nearly 100,000 farmers are currently eligible for ANC payments, representing over 80% of total BPS recipients.

“It’s extremely important that all participants remain eligible for their payments after the review, given the severe challenges facing primary producers – falling prices, income volatility and reduced profitability in most sectors.”

The ANC scheme (previously called the disadvantaged areas payment) is vitally important in helping maintain the continued use of agricultural lands and ensure farmers serve as custodians of the Irish countryside.

“Restoring ANC payments to 2007 levels remains a key Fianna Fail policy.

“It is also my view that increased payments should reflect the natural constraint of each land type, by taking environmental designations into account when assessing natural constraint.”

McConalogue said that future payment increases, as is expected in 2018, should reflect the land constraint.

ANC farmers on the most severely constrained land – such as mountainous ground – should see an increased payment to reflect the natural handicap of their land, he said.

Meanwhile, IFA President Joe Healy said recently that the areas currently designated as ANC must be fully protected in the forthcoming review of areas, and payments must be increased in this vital support scheme for low-income farmers on marginal land.

“ANC payments represent a significant support for up to 95,000 farmers who farm in some of the most difficult conditions.

“This must be recognised by European and national politicians. Every effort must be made to protect the already designated areas and to restore payments to farmers to their pre-2009 levels when Budget cutbacks were made.”