It will be early summer before the maps which will be used in the review of the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) review will be ready, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has said.

The Minister made the announcement at last week’s Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) AGM and annual conference in Portlaoise.

Minister Creed said that work is underway on the maps but that it will be “into May” before the maps will be available.

“The mapping operation is underway. Our ambition is to hold what [payments] we have. I don’t underestimate the significance of that challenge.

“We’re working through that process at the moment. I appreciate that there’s some concern out there because there’s a lack of information presently about the work underway by those staff in my Department carrying out the 26 county assessment.”

A new system of designating land will be introduced in 2018, with eligible areas being decided on their biophysical criteria.

Under the current ANC scheme, eligible land is designated by reference to criteria such as stocking density, family farm income and population density.

The Minister has previously outlined the new criteria, which is set out in the legislation: low temperature; dryness; excess soil moisture; limited soil drainage; unfavourable texture and stoniness; shallow rooting depth; poor chemical properties; and steep slope.

Minister Creed also said that there is a commitment in the Programme for Government to restore in Budget 2018 €25m of cuts that were made to the ANCs.

According to the programme, the Government will endeavour to ensure the level of payments and eligibility involved in the ANC scheme reflects the degree of disadvantage experienced by individual farmers, within the remit of the Rural Development Programme.