IFA Hill Committee Chairman Pat Dunne has said that in the review of the ANCs, all areas currently classified as mountain sheep grazing areas must qualify for the highest rate of payment from the 2018 scheme.
Pat Dunne said that currently 31,500 farmers benefit from the higher mountain payment. For 24,000 of these farmers, their total area is classified as mountain grazing. These payments are currently worth around €85m out of the total allocation of €205m.
The IFA Hill Chairman said that with additional funds being allocated to the ANC in 2018, the payments in hill areas should be increased and front-loaded on the first 20ha. The IFA Hill Committee have set a target of a maximum payment of up to €6,000 being payable for farmers on the first 40ha.
Pat Dunne said that it is important that the ANC payment rates reflect the natural handicap, and the low income associated with farming this type of land. One of the main priorities of EU regulation on ANCs is avoiding land abandonment. The ANC scheme plays a key role in this regard as there is clear recognition of farming activity through a minimum stocking level and in the case of commonages through the commonage management plan.
The IFA Hill Committee is calling on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to recognise the most disadvantaged areas in the upcoming review and to retain the existing mountain grazing areas so that they can qualify for the highest rate of payment.