‘Payments in hill areas should be increased with additional ANC funding in 2018’

With additional funds being allocated to the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme in 2018, the payments in hill areas should be increased and front-loaded on the first 20ha, IFA Hill Committee Chairman, Pat Dunne, has said.

The IFA Hill Committee has set a target of a maximum payment of up to €6,000 being payable for farmers on the first 40ha.

Dunne has also said that in the review of the ANCs, all areas currently classified as mountain sheep grazing areas must qualify for the highest rate of payment from the 2018 scheme.

Currently 31,500 farmers benefit from the higher mountain payment.

For 24,000 of these farmers, their total area is classified as mountain grazing and these payments are currently worth around €85m out of the total allocation of €205m, the IFA estimates.

It is important that the ANC payment rates reflect the natural handicap, and the low income associated with farming this type of land, Dunne said.

One of the main priorities of EU regulation on ANCs is avoiding land abandonment. The ANC scheme plays a key role in this regard as there is clear recognition of farming activity through a minimum stocking level and in the case of commonages through the commonage management plan, the IFA said.

The IFA Hill Committee is calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to recognise the most disadvantaged areas in the upcoming review and to retain the existing mountain grazing areas so that they can qualify for the highest rate of payment.

Earlier this year, the Minister for Agriculture, outlined the new criteria for designating areas under the ANC scheme.

Currently, 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.

“Under the new system of designation that must be introduced in 2018, eligible areas will have to be designated on the basis of biophysical criteria.”

“The criteria set out in the legislation are low temperature; dryness; excess soil moisture; limited soil drainage; unfavourable texture and stoniness; shallow rooting depth; poor chemical properties; and steep slope.”