Excluding dairy farmers from 'disadvantage' scheme because of stocking rates branded 'unfair'

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Excluding dairy farmers from the Areas of Natural Constraint scheme due to their high stoking rate has been branded as unfair by Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill.

The areas of natural constraint, ANC, scheme was introduced under the rural development programme 2014-20 as a replacement for the disadvantaged areas and less favoured areas schemes which had been in place since 1975. 

In a recent review of the scheme, some 700 townlands fell out of the scheme, having been deemed ineligible. 

However, concerns have been raised over the strictness of the appeals process for farmers now excluded from the scheme. 

Tipperary TD Cahill raised the concerns of several fairly significant dairy farmers in his constituency who are farming on difficult lands. 

"They spent a lot of money through the years draining, improving and maintaining that land. 

"Those farmers are being excluded from the ANC scheme even though we were told that they would qualify on the basis of the physical criteria of their land. 

"However, they are being excluded because of their stocking rate. That is extremely unfair," Cahill said.

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He also highlighted another group of farmers who feel aggrieved is those whose land is flooded on a fairly frequent basis. 

Minister for State at the Department of Agriculture, Andrew Doyle said the Department received 1,537 appeal notifications in respect of 759 distinct townlands. 

"I am told that the relevant information underpinning the decision on the relevant townlands has been provided in response to all of the appeal notifications and that, to date, the Department has received 376 full appeals to the independently chaired appeals committee in respect of 273 townlands," he outlined.

He accepted there are always difficult cases but also highlighted the Department officials had quite a job in persuading EU officials that the scheme would be in line with the Commission's demand for member states to be consistent in how they designate these areas. 

" I accept the matter is not sitting well in some areas but the net result is that 760 are out but more than 2,200 are in. 

"The coverage under areas of natural constraint has seen a net increase," he said.

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