The upcoming review of Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) should ensure that future payments under the scheme reflect the land constraint, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has said.

The association launched its ANC campaign in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal on Friday, February 3, with over 600 farmers attending.

Colm O’Donnell INHFA Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Chair expressed concern that farmers whose lands meet the qualifying bio-physical criteria under the proposed review could lose out under a flawed interpretation of the specific constraint.

The INHFA said that this flawed proposal could see land with no bio-physical constraint brought back into the scheme under a 10% specific constraint.

This specific constraint which is presently applied correctly to the off-shore islands could, if incorrectly applied, use up a substantial part of the ANC budget and negatively affect farmers with actual land constraints, it believes.

O’Donnell said that a farmer needed sheep in order to qualify for the Sheep Welfare Scheme and cattle in order to qualify for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme, so it should be a basic requirement, that land qualifying for the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme, should have a bio-physical constraint.

“Under the INHFA’s three-point plan he said farmers could see an average payment for ANC lands double from €2000 to €4000.

The INHFA three-point plan:
  • Front loading payments on the first 20ha at a rate of €250/ha.
  • Increasing the rate per hectare on the next 14ha to €170/ha.
  • Increasing the overall number of eligible hectares from 34 to 40 with a payment rate of €70/ha on the remaining 6ha.

O’Donnell also outlined how farmers at the meeting expressed concern that the current category of mountain type land could be scrapped as part of the review.

“This land has possibly the highest level of constraint which is why we are calling for an uplands specific category to be created with a  payment model similar to that on the off-shore islands.”

With the present review he said that there is the possibility that some areas could lose out and if this happens then they can receive a degressive ANC payment starting at 80% of their present payment reducing over a defined period of time down to €25/ha by 2020.