UFU hill farming policy chairman Ian Buchanan says that DAERA must keep their options open for extending the Areas of Natural Constraint scheme post 2018.
The call comes following a meeting between the Ulster Farmers’ Union and DAERA about the future of the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme.
“Despite the positive decision by the DAERA Minister to extend the ANC scheme by a further year it is important that the minister does not close the door on this scheme althogether,” Mr Buchanan said.
“In future years, we will see a significant deficit in income on many severely disadvantaged farms due to a combination of factors, including a reduction in ANC income and also continued delays with the introduction of a new agri-environment scheme. And contrary to perception, there are many SDA farms which will see the value of their basic payment entitlements reduce in line with the transition towards a flat rate payment,” said Mr Buchanan.
The union is encouraging DAERA to use ongoing budget reviews and any potential underspend in Rural Development Programme funds to keep options open.
“The DAERA Minister has already recognised the importance of the ANC scheme by committing to one additional year, and I would urge her to look further than this by maintaining the option to extend the scheme post 2018,” said Mr Buchanan.
The Union is also encouraging the Minster to persist with the ANC designation process to ensure that Northern Ireland meets EU requirements for delivering ANC payments post 2018.
Mr Buchanan added: “The EU Commission allows much greater flexibility with the ANC designation process than was previously understood. It is absolutely essential that we maintain progress to designate this area, not just to satisfy the EU for delivering further ANC payments but also to set parameters for future UK agriculture policy which recognise the constraints hill farmers face.”