Lobby groups urge for ANC to target biggest land quality challenges

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) met with officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on Friday, November 26, to discuss the new arrangements for the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme in 2019.

The meeting came following the publication of the new eligibility maps. The ICSA’s rural development chairman, Seamus Sherlock, has said that the ICSA wants to see higher payments for farmers who are most in need on poorer land.

“There is an additional €23 million available for the 2019 scheme, which is a restoration of austerity cuts.

While some of this will be needed to cover the newly eligible ground, there will be approximately €10-11 million left to give a slight increase to existing farmers.

“The last change saw extra payments made to mountain areas and we support that continuing.

“The problem is that the overall scheme needs a significant injection of funding to cover the fact that so many farmers are eligible and that there has been no attempt to ensure funding keeps pace with inflation.”

He added: “This is a matter that will have to be addressed in the CAP reform.”

The statement added that the ICSA is pleased there will be an independent appeals process for farmers affected by the 2% of existing areas that are potentially losing ‘disadvantaged area’ status.

Concluding, Sherlock said: “The ANC payment is very important to farmers and any farmer affected must have every opportunity to make their case. It is also essential that changes are only phased in over a number of years, where farmers are negatively impacted.”

INHFA’s response to ANC review

Meanwhile, the Irish Natura And Hill Farmers Association’s (INHFA’s) president Colm O’Donnell has said: “The scientific review has vindicated that supports are necessary in the areas already identified in the existing scheme by the Department.

“However, the current methodology in setting the level of compensation based on Standard Output/ha doesn’t reflect fairly the severity of areas with multiple biophysical constraints.”

O’Donnell continued: “This review of the ANC was in part called for because of the unequal treatment of some farmers in receipt of compensatory payments in the scheme and the review must now finally address this imbalance.”

The INHFA president highlighted that member states must provide calculations that are accurate and established on a fair, equitable and verifiable method processed by a body functionally independent from those implementing the plan.

Our position is to retain the mountain sheep grazing (MSG) area as the ‘Priority 1’ category with meaningful targeting that reflects the severity of the multiple constraints experienced in these areas.

O’Donnell concluded: “We are currently consulting with our membership and a National Rally is organised for December 7 at the Knockranny House Hotel, Westport, Co. Mayo starting at 8:00pm sharp.”