Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced she will provide £8million to fund a one-year transitional scheme to support farmers in Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC).
The ANC scheme provides payments to eligible farmers to cover additional costs and lost income due to constraints on agricultural production in severely disadvantaged areas (SDA).
“I recognise that farming in the SDA comes with distinct challenges and that is why I have decided to continue to help support these farmers by extending the ANC scheme for another year. This scheme will put £8million into the farmers’ pockets, in addition to the support they receive from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Pillar I funding,” Miss McIlveen explained.
“Farmers will be able to apply to the 2018 ANC scheme on their 2017 Single Application Form. This will be a rollover of the current scheme and will consist of a one year payment to farmers in SDA.”
Ulster Farmers’ Union, deputy president, Victor Chestnutt says that the announcement is an important commitment for those farming in severely disadvantaged areas.
“The Minister’s decision to allocate £8m to support farmers in Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) will be broadly welcomed and while we would have preferred a larger allocation for a longer period of time, we have to be realistic about how this scheme was going to be funded,” said Mr Chestnutt. “Currently there are no existing funds within the Rural Development Programme to support the continuation of the scheme and the transfer of funding from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 was an option we weren’t prepared to consider,” he said adding that it was commendable that the Minister managed to secure funding, through the Northern Executive, which can provide support to producers in SDA areas for a further year.
He said that while this is a positive outcome from a difficult set of circumstances, the UFU cannot ignore the fact that this is only a short term solution. The reality is that in general, income on SDA farms is much lower than lowland farms and there was always a dependency on less favoured area and agri-environment schemes to sustain these farms.