Transitional scheme ‘will help ease blow’

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Confirmation that applications will open for a Transitional Payment to the Disadvantaged Area (DA) Scheme from 1st February 2015 will help to ease the blow to DA farmers who will not be eligible for the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme proposed under the new Rural Development Programme, it has been claimed.

Ulster Farmers’ Union Hill Farming Chairman Ian Buchanan made the comments following Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill’s announcement on the Scheme earlier this week.

The Minister said: “Under the new EU CAP policy framework, farmers in the Disadvantaged Area who previously qualified for support under the outgoing Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowances (LFACA) Scheme will no longer meet the criteria to receive such support.

“From 2015, payments will be made only to farmers in the Severely Disadvantaged Area under the new Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme.

“Given the prospect of a sudden ending of this longstanding support payment in the Disadvantaged Area, I sought and received the agreement of the Executive last June to make a one year transition payment to those farmers who will no longer be eligible for support from the new Rural Development Programme. I am now inviting farmers to apply for this transitional support.”

Ian Buchanan said: “It is very disappointing that this will be the final payment on DA land. This land, which previously qualified for support under the old Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowances (LFACA) will not be eligible for the new Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme. LFACA payments have been an important element of farm incomes on DA land for many years, which the NI Executive recognised during last year’s CAP negotiations.

“At that time they approved this one year transitional payment to be funded by the NI Executive rather than at an EU level.

“The payment rate per hectare will be £14.40/ha on all eligible land and this will go some of the way to soften the blow to DA farmers, giving them a bit of a breathing space as they work on a plan for their businesses to adapt to the loss of this payment.

“In our discussions with DARD around this scheme, we have been assured that they intend to keep the process as simplistic and straightforward as possible.

“Applications are due to be issued to all 2014 DA claimants in the next number of weeks and we would encourage all of those eligible to ensure their applications are submitted no later than 13th March 2015 so that payments can be made swiftly in June.”