By Stephen Cadogan
Townlands eligible up to now for areas of natural constraints (ANC) payments will remain eligible in the new scheme next year in about 98% of cases, said Agriculture Minister Michael Creed yesterday.
The scheme formerly known as the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is required by EU regulations to be based from 2019 on re-designated townlands considered to be constrained bio-physically.
The minister said he was announcing details of the re-designation process early to provide assurance to farmers ahead of their payments applications next year.
He revealed that more than 2,000 townlands will become newly eligible for ANC payments in 2019.
As for the 2% approximately of townlands (about 700 townlands) no longer eligible in the new scheme next year, which are spread across the country, there will be an appeals process for the 750 or so farmers negatively impacted.
They will get 80% of the 2007-2013 payment rate in 2019, 20% in 2020, and the payment is then phased out.
The minister said his department will write to relevant farmers shortly to outline their position in the ANC scheme for 2019.
Meanwhile, he will consult with stakeholder groups in relation to finalising the design of the ANC scheme for 2019 (including increased payment rates).
“In addition to the extra €25m provided for the scheme in 2018, a further €23m will now be added to the scheme in 2019, and the details of the allocation of this money will form part of discussions with stakeholder groups.”
Farmers can now check a list of 2019 eligible townlands in each county, in the areas of natural constraints section of the department’s agriculture.gov.ie website.
A map (left) showing the eligible areas for 2019 is also on the website.
The scheme is co-funded by the EU Commission as part of Ireland’s €4bn Rural Development Programme (RDP), 2014-2020, and the changes must be agreed with the EU Commission.
In the current scheme, over 95,000 farmers receive total payments of €227m.
This rises to €250m, after the Budget 2019 increase of €23m, bringing the payment increase over the last two budgets to €50m.
Re-designation of eligible areas stems from concerns raised by the European Court of Auditors as to the inconsistent approach taken across member states.
Member states could choose not to implement the new approach, but EU regulations would require them to accept significantly reduced payment rates.
Of the new biophysical criteria, the main one impacting in Ireland is excess soil moisture making farming difficult.
Areas where 50% or more is covered by Natura 2000 Directives lands and National Heritage Areas are now eligible under the scheme.
Some of the €23m from Budget 2019 will go to farmers eligible for the first time under the scheme in 2019, and to existing beneficiaries who gain new eligible land in the redesignation. The remaining allocation is expected to increase payments across all land categories.
It is not intended to change existing eligibility requirements such as the stocking rate.
The Department of Agriculure favours continuing the current policy direction of targeting the highest level of funding at areas experiencing the highest level of constraint/disadvantage.
- Next week: Questions and Answers on the ANC changes