Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív, has welcomed the decision by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to provide an enhanced ANC Scheme payment (Areas of Natural Constraint) to island farmers from 2015.

The proposed rates are €150 per forage hectare where a farmer is an island resident and €75 per forage hectare for a farmer not resident on the island, but where the farmer is actively farming the island lands.

“When Minister Coveney recently came before the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, I pushed him very hard to ensure that any additional support to farmers would be administered through the ANC scheme. I am glad that Minister Coveney has heeded this advice. The proposed grant upgrades will make a very significant difference to island farmers and it recognises the extra expense of farming on an island.

“In a recent Parliamentary Question the Minister also clarified to me that farmers on islands connected to the main land by a permanent access route, such as a bridge, will not be eligible for the payment on the basis that these farmers do not incur the same costs as those living and farming on islands.”

Deputy Ó Cuív also asked a Parliamentary Question in relation to whether payment will be made to islands on inland waterways such as lakes and rivers.

“I have been informed by the Minister that his Department is currently in the process of identifying and investigating all islands situated both offshore and inland on lakes and rivers and determining the eligibility of each site.

“It appears the ANC payment will not only apply to farming on offshore islands but also to people farming on inland islands. In Loch Corrib alone there are reputed to be over 300 islands and therefore this could be a tremendous boost to all people farming on these islands without a permanent access route.

“Obviously the greatest benefit of this scheme will be for farmers resident on islands and farming on islands. The €75 per forage hectare top-up for farmers who are not resident on islands will be of considerable advantage to coastal community farmers both inland and offshore.”