What’s disadvantaged land may not be classed as such in the future

The Department of Agriculture is currently working on a project to assess which land will be eligible for payments under the new Disadvantage Area Scheme.

New EU regulations requires all Member States to implement a new system for designating eligible areas under new Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme from 2018 at the latest.

At present, disadvantaged land or 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.

However, under the new system of designation for disadvantaged land, which according to the Department, must be introduced in 2018, it is understood that eligible areas will have to be designated on the basis of biophysical criteria such as temperature, dryness, soil drainage, moisture and stoniness, and slope of the terrain.

Last week the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed confirmed to Fianna Fail Agriculture Spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue that the Department has commenced work on this project, and he has said that relevant technical experts are currently working on sourcing and analysing the data in relation to the new criteria.

Currently, there are approximately 102,000 farmers in receipt of payments under the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme.

Once this process is complete, the data will provide the basis for the identification of eligible areas in the ANC scheme from 2018 onwards.

Until this process is complete, it is not possible to predict what the outcome will be and which land will be eligible.

The Programme for Government agreed between Fine Gael and a host of independents endeavours to ensure the level of payments and eligibility involved in the ANC scheme reflect the degree of disadvantage experienced by individual farmers, within the remit of the Rural Development Programme.

It sets out to enhance ANC payments, increasing funding in this area by €25m in Budget 2018.