IFA Rural Development Chairman Joe Brady has said that there are sufficient flexibilities in place in the Guidelines to Designate ANC Areas to protect areas already classified in the upcoming review.
Speaking following a Copa meeting in Brussels on the implementation of the ANC Review, which was attended by key EU Commission officials, Joe Brady said that member states can make a case based on local conditions to ensure that areas retain their status and continue to qualify for payments.
In addition, Ireland can make a case for areas that have difficulty in qualifying under the new biophysical criteria by classifying them as areas with specific constraints. This should allow various options to be used as it can add an additional 10% of the utilisable area in addition to those areas that would qualify under the biophysical criteria.
Joe Brady said that the main biophysical criteria to be used in Ireland will be the wetness of the soil backed up by rainfall weather data, which will indicate the difficulty farmers face in marginal areas.
The IFA Rural Development Chairman pointed out that currently 75% of Ireland is classified under Areas of Natural Constraint with payments worth €205m, benefiting 95,000 farmers. The commitment in the Programme for Government to add an additional €25m to the scheme in 2018 will be a step in restoring payment levels that were cut in 2009.
Joe Brady said ANC payments are a vital lifeline to thousands of farmers and it is up to Minister Creed to ensure that the scheme continues to have a significant impact in supporting farmers in difficult land areas.