‘Unfairness in the ANC payment structure needs to be addressed’

The unfairness in the payment structure of the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme needs to be addressed, according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).

The INHFA recently welcomed the extension of time sought by the Council of Ministers to review the ANC scheme.

This extension should ensure a proper consultation process with all stakeholders when the new maps are produced by the middle of the year, the INHFA’s Colm O’Donnell said.

The latest review of the scheme was called for by the EU Commission, in order to address the unfairness in the ANC payments where it did not always reflect the level of constraints experienced by farmers on the ground, he added.

A delegation from the INHFA was in Brussels this week, where it met with senior officials in charge of Pillar 2 payments.

They also highlighted the ‘real need’ for the ANC review to correctly target payments, especially where the ‘bio-physical’ conditions present a ‘real challenge’ for farmers trying to make a living.

The INHFA reportedly presented a scientific analysis to the commission that demonstrated how the most disadvantaged land was not receiving equal treatment under the current payment model.

Hill farmers should have a legitimate expectation going forward that the payments must be proportionate for each category within the scheme, Josephine Loriz Hoffman, who headed the EU delegation that met with the INHFA, said.

While it was at the discretion of member states to set the various categories for payment; it was vital that consideration was given to metrics such as standard output and similar measurements, so that a fair payment structure for the farming constraints could be put in place, she added.

Additional ANC funding

O’Donnell, who is the Chair of the INHFA’s CAP Committee, claims that an imbalance is evident when you compare the current payment categories to non-ANC land using standard output data from the Central Statitics Office (CSO).

This also indicates that there could be an increased risk of land abandonment, he added.

In the programme for Government, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Minister Creed had given a commitment of a further €25m for the ANC budget to be paid out in 2018, O’Donnell said.

This money, he said, needs to go into the mountain-type land category to help redress the imbalance in the proportionality of the current payment structure and help maintain the family farm; which is the backbone of the rural community.