IFA Rural Development Chairman Joe Brady wants an early conclusion to the ANC review process, which has been going on for the last nine months.
Following the completion of the review of areas this time last year, an Independent Appeals Panel was set up to deal with areas that had previously been included. It also covered areas that were never designated, but felt they should be included for the first time.
Following an initial appeal by farmers, information was provided which indicated what criteria areas fell down on. These included soil type, field size, the percentage of townland in grassland, farm incomes at DED level, amount of designated Natura, stocking rate, and the percentage of townland reaching certain bio-physical criteria. Following on this, farmers had recourse to the independent Appeal panel chaired by Padraic Gibbons.
This resulted in 510 herdowners in 315 townlands appealing. At a recent meeting with the Department of Agriculture, IFA was told that each townland is being examined in the absence of additional data at both DED and townland level.
The IFA Rural Development Chairman pointed out that it is necessary that all areas are considered in detail, but the deadline of next month should apply to conclude the work.
In the review, which was part of an EU-wide exercise, an additional 4,000 farmers became eligible for ANC payments in 2019 to bring the total to over 100,000. The scheme is a very valuable support to low-income farmers and is worth €250m. Payments vary depending on the degree of natural handicap.
The review resulted in 750 farmers losing out. They will get degressive payments of 80% in 2019 and 40% in 2020, and will be excluded altogether in 2021. IFA is insisting that these farmers along with those who were never in and are applying to get in are given every opportunity to qualify for full ANC status in future.
Joe Brady said that in the next Rural development Programme post 2020 IFA will be pressing for an increase of an additional €50m for ANCs to bring the total annual funding to €300m. This would mean a 20% increase in payment rates.