The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill’s announcement that the rates for the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme have been officially confirmed.
The minister has confirmed that payment rates for the ANC Scheme will be £56.47/ha up to and including 200 hectares of Severely Disadvantaged land and £42.35/ha on all claims over 200 hectares of Severely Disadvantaged land.
Minister O’Neill said: “In June 2014, I announced that there would be an Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme in Pillar II for the first two years of the current CAP period, with a review thereafter. This is the first year of that Scheme with claims made in May 2015.
“The payment rate for the first 200 hectares of eligible forage land claimed will be £56.47 per hectare, and the payment rate for eligible forage land claimed above 200 hectares will be £42.35 per hectare. The split rates are a requirement of the new EU Regulation which states that payments must be degressive above a threshold level of claimed area per holding.”
She concluded: “I appreciate that the past year has been a difficult one for farmers, and the farmers in the SDA are no exception to this. I am therefore pleased to announce that ANC payments will begin to issue in early March 2016 and most payments should be processed before the end of that month.”
UFU Hill Farming Chairman Ian Buchanan said; “The UFU has been involved throughout the discussions with DARD about the payment rates which have now been set for the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme. These payments are an important element of farm incomes in less favoured areas and we welcome the fact that the Minister and her team recognise the value of these payments to the hill farming community.
“With DARD hoping to issue payments in early March, this will provide some much needed reassurance and certainty for farmers planning their cash flow budgets for 2016. Last year was a difficult year for many livestock farmers with high levels of volatility once again witnessed in the market place. This volatility has made it more difficult for businesses to plan and improve margins and this demonstrates the importance of the ANC payments which provides a boost to farms at a key time.”