Uplands need protected, says UFU chairman

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Ulster Farmers’ Union hill farming chairman, Ian Buchanan, has said that while the start of payments for the 2017 ANC (areas of natural constraint) scheme will boost hill farm incomes deep concern remains about DAERA’s plans to close this valued scheme.

“Spring is a costly time of the year on all farms. But it’s even more expensive on farms in severely disadvantaged areas where cold weather and wet conditions restrict grass growth and stock turnout. This drives up costs, and that is why ANC payments are so important for cash flows,” said Mr Buchanan.

He said that makes cuts to the scheme in 2018, and plans to then end it completely, a body blow for farmers in these areas. “DAERA believes a modest increase in Basic Payment to severely disadvantaged areas will offset the loss of ANC payments. In reality this could not be further from the truth,” said the UFU hill farming chairman. “Many SDA farms are already losing money from the Basic Payment transition process. There will also be income lost as agri-environment agreements end and the timeline for the roll out of the new Environmental Farming Scheme means that there will be a considerable break before new payments will be received,” he said.

Statistics DAERA included in their 2016 ANC consultation showed that between 2008 and 2013 SDA farms were £115/ha worse off than lowland farms. The UFU is now pressing for these figures to be updated.