Farmers 'in the dark' over ANC 2019 plans
The Department of Agriculture has not committed to a date for publishing the long-awaited review of the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme, and is continuing to engage with the EU Commission regarding the process.
The in-depth review of ANC designations and payments will have to be published over the coming months to allow land owners time to appeal any decisions made ahead of May’s application date for the 2019 scheme.
The delay in publishing the review’s findings has been criticised by the ICMSA, who pointed out that farmers will be left with very little time to lodge appeals if their lands are excluded from the ANC scheme.
However, the Department was non-committal on an exact date for publishing the review’s findings.
“The Department is continuing to engage with the EU Commission in relation to the re-designation of the ANC scheme,” is said.
“The technical aspects of this project must be completed in time to allow for a formal amendment to Ireland’s Rural Development Programme (RDP), which will in turn allow for the scheme to be opened on the basis of the new designation in 2019.
“The details of this process will be publicised in advance of the RDP amendment submission.”
ICMSA deputy president Lorcan McCabe expressed disappointment that publication of the ANC review has not been fast-tracked.
“It is now just two months from the start of 2019 and there are still no guidance maps published, or any guidance at all as to the possible inclusion or exclusion of a farm,” he said.
“This leaves precious little time for a farmer to appeal before the ANC application has to be submitted by May.”
Around 100,000 farmers are eligible for ANC payments, with €227m paid out this year or €2,270/applicant on average. For 2019 the budget for the scheme increases to €250m.
“The ANC payment is a hugely important part of farm income and it is unacceptable that farmers are just left in the dark as to their status for 2019,” said Mr McCabe.
“Farmers need to be told immediately where they stand so that they can plan their business accordingly for 2019 and make an appeal if required.
“For those farmers who will be excluded under the review, this is a huge issue for them and would represent a substantial cut in their farm income, so they need to know now what is happening.”
Mr McCabe called on the Department to introduce an independent appeals procedure, with clear guidelines for farmers whose lands are excluded from the ANC scheme following the review.
The ANC review is regarded as a political minefield, with TDs fearing an angry farmer backlash if significant areas of the country are deemed not to be disadvantaged and therefore ineligible for ANC payments.
Under EU rules the Department has the flexibility to re-designate 10pc of the country’s farmland should the ANC review remove large tracts of ground that are currently eligible for payments.
In contrast to the other farm organisations, who have sought to limit changes under the ANC review, the INHFA maintains that payment levels under the scheme must reflect the underlying quality of the land and the degree of constraint involved in farming the ground.
INHFA president Colm O’Donnell said ANC designations must be based on science and that the methodology underpinning the decision-making process had to be open and transparent.
He said the methodology employed must “reflect more fairly how farmers are compensated for the level of constraint experienced in their farming systems”.
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