The Department of Agriculture and the IFA are set for conflict over the ongoing review of the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme.

At the meeting with the Department this week the IFA discussed the ANC review which is analysing which land should be classed as ‘disadvantaged’ in the future.

IFA insisted that all factors be taken into account in the review, not just natural handicap criteria.

It said the income position of farmers must be a factor as low-income farmers depend greatly these payments which recognise the difficult situation many farmers have to endure.

IFA Deputy President Richard Kennedy called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to protect existing areas and pitch payments levels that recognise the various difficult land types.

The Department of Agriculture is currently working on a project to assess which land will be eligible for payments under the new Disadvantage Area Scheme.

New EU regulations requires all Member States to implement a new system for designating eligible areas under new Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme from 2018 at the latest.

At present, disadvantaged land or eligible land under the scheme is designated by reference to criteria such as stocking density, family farm income, population density and the percentage of the working population engaged in agriculture.

However, under the new system of designation for disadvantaged land, which according to the Department, must be introduced in 2018, it is understood that eligible areas will have to be designated on the basis of biophysical criteria such as temperature, dryness, soil drainage, moisture and stoniness, and slope of the terrain.

Currently, there are approximately 102,000 farmers in receipt of payments under the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme.

Once this process is complete, the data will provide the basis for the identification of eligible areas in the ANC scheme from 2018 onwards.