Ulster Farmers Union, deputy president, Victor Chestnutt has warned that DAERA is risking a ‘lose, lose outcome’ for farmers and the environment if it scraps the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme in 2017.
The UFU is appealing to politicians not to let this happen because of the damage it could create for rural areas across Northern Ireland.
“Farming in severely disadvantaged areas (SDAs) comes with big challenges, linked to the landscape and climate which add immense extra production costs.
“This has been understood by successive governments who have delivered support payments to offset these natural constraints,” said Mr Chestnutt
UFU hill farming chairman, Ian Buchanan, who farms ANC land on the edge of the Sperrins, says scrapping the scheme would be a major mistake, and one government should not even be contemplating.
“These areas have been vital to red meat production by delivering over the years the highest quality suckler calves and store lambs for lowland areas. With margins tight, without the £20 million a year in ANC support, production would be scaled back. That would mean these areas no longer delivering their potential – and a loss of quality stock for lowland farmers,” warned Mr Buchanan.
DAERA concluded its consultation on options for future support to areas of natural constraint some months ago.
“To date no decision has been made and this is creating uncertainty for farmers who have been heavily reliant on support for many years,” said Mr Chestnutt.
The UFU deputy president added that this would be a double blow in these areas where farmers are already living with the ending of agri-environment scheme contracts and continued delays to the introduction of the new Environmental Farming Scheme.