The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) is preparing a nationwide campaign to double the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) payments to farmers in mountain and more severely handicapped areas. The doubling of these payments will require increasing the ANC budget to €300 million which according to INHFA CAP Chair Colm O Donnell can be delivered from unspent Rural Development funds. He also outlined how farmers on these lands deal with severe permanent constraints that must be catered for in the review of the ANC Scheme, (formally known as the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme).
O Donnell pointed to the existing payment model in place for Offshore Islands (specifically constrained areas) and stated that “the INHFA want to see this model extended to include mountain and similar type land.” Under EU regulations, Member States can designate up to 10% of the land area as being ‘specifically constrained’ and farmers on Natura, privately owned hill and commonage lands in mountain areas fulfil the criteria necessary for inclusion. In light of this he added “we have developed a 3 point plan which will be elaborated on at a number of public meetings through Spring and early Summer.”
The INHFA 3 point plan:
(1) Front loading payments on the first 20 hectares at a rate of €250 per Ha,
(2) Increasing the rate per Ha on the next 14 hectares to €170 per Ha.
(3) Increasing the overall number of eligible Hectares from 34 to 40 with a payment rate of €70 per Ha on the remaining 6 hectares.
A payment model like this O’Donnell stated “would go some way towards recognising the true level of constraint these farmers deal with, while also protecting smaller holders through a front loaded payment.”
The present review of the ANC areas will see land now assessed on scientific biophysical criteria rather than the socio-economic criteria previously used with member states presently assessing and fine tuning these areas. This may see certain areas currently in the system losing out in the re-mapping of eligible areas under the Scheme.
Where such areas are deemed no longer eligible, Member States can continue to pay farmers a degressive phasing out ANC over a defined period, thus avoiding a sudden cash- flow deficit for those affected which O Donnell added “is something the INHFA would support.”