More than 900 island farmers are to benefit from a special payment under the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme, the Department of Agriculture has announced.

Minister Simon Coveney has announced the designation of off-shore islands as Areas of Specific Constraint under the new ANC Scheme which replaces the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme under the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014 – 2020.

The Scheme is co-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

The island payment will be payable on land situated on off-shore islands (i.e. where no permanent access by road or bridge exists) where an agricultural activity is being carried out by the applicant, the Department says.

Minister Coveney said that the payment is in recognition of the challenges that those farmers have to cope with on a day to day basis in going about their normal farming business.

The maintenance of farming on Ireland’s off-shore islands, including the maintenance of traditional extensive farming methods, is vital in terms of the delivery of environmental benefits via the avoidance of land abandonment and the preservation of habitats.

The Department says that this has been recognised, for example, in the Heritage Council’s report on High Nature Value Farming in Ireland.

This refers to the traditional agricultural landscape in the Aran Islands as presenting a “mosaic of habitats, characterised by the network of dry stone walls and rocky, wildflower-rich fields”.

This report also highlighted a decline in traditional farm practices and potential detrimental effects arising from scrub encroachment or abandonment.

“The new Scheme, in arresting and reversing this decline, would support the maintenance of the natural landscapes and scenic beauty of Ireland’s off-shore islands and ensure that island communities can benefit both from farming and from Ireland’s tourism industry,” the Minister said.

The Department will be contacting farmers eligible for the island payment in writing and the Minister repeated that the closing date for applications will be May 29, 2015.

He also urged all eligible farmers to take account of the Terms and Conditions of the new Scheme, a copy of which is issuing to all applicants, and ensure their applications are submitted correctly and on time.

Island farming payments