UFU calls for an extension on the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) are calling for an extension of the deadline that the Areas of Natural Constraint are to be designated by, which would be the first break in EU policy following the Brexit vote.

UFU Deputy President, Victor Chestnutt, said that pushing for a derogation or seeking an extension of the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme would reduce the burden on farmers and the Department, allowing both to concentrate on more important priorities such as trade.

This is an early opportunity for the Agriculture Minister to make a break from EU regulations by challenging the Commission on this requirement.

The UFU’s concerns over the ANC scheme came to light at a cross-border meeting between the UFU and the Irish Farmers’ Association last week.

Chestnutt said that the EU requirement to designate ANCs is an example of how a one size fits all policy does not work in practice.

Despite the ANC maps created by the Department not being entirely accurate, the blame does not fall squarely on its shoulders, according to Chestnutt.

“The ANC maps that have been drafted by the Department do not accurately reflect the true areas of natural constraint and this goes against the very principles of the EU regulation, which is to define disadvantaged areas that require additional support.

“We don’t believe the Department is entirely to blame for this, such is the complexity of this process, however in the context of the circumstances surrounding Brexit we would now strongly question whether this requirement should be relevant anymore,” Chestnutt said.

The ANC scheme replaced the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, with the ANCs divided into mountain areas, severely handicapped and less severely handicapped areas.

The scheme provides payments on a per-hectare basis for those farming these areas. While applications to avail of the scheme were made through the 2015 Basic Payment application.