Farm Ireland

Monday 18 December 2017

Political hot potato on the horizon amid proposed change of disadvantaged areas

The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Pic Michael Mac Sweeeney/Provision
The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Pic Michael Mac Sweeeney/Provision
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Irish Government is currently in the process of reviewing the Area of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme - better known to farmers as the Disadvantage Area Payment.

EU regulations require all Member States to implement a new system for designating eligible areas under the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme, from 2018 at the latest.  

At present, eligible land under the scheme is designated by reference to criteria such as stocking density, family farm income, population density and the percentage of the working population engaged in agriculture. 

Under the new system of designation, which must be introduced in 2018, eligible areas will have to be designated on the basis of biophysical criteria.  The criteria set out in the legislation are:

  • Low temperature
  • Dryness
  • Excess soil moisture
  • Limited soil drainage
  • Unfavourable texture and stoniness
  • Shallow rooting depth
  • Poor chemical properties
  • Steep slope.

The Department has commenced work on this project, and relevant technical experts are currently sourcing and analysing the data in relation to the new criteria.  

Officials have also been in contact with the Commission to discuss technical issues arising.

Once this process is complete, the draft data will provide the basis for the identification of eligible areas for ANC.  It is envisaged that domestic stakeholders will be consulted as this process develops. 

Addressing the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture this week, European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said there is no submission firm the Irish government yet on ANCs.

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But he did say the Commission is looking at the criteria and how we would adjudicate on the changes. However, Hogan did hint at the politically decisive nature of the changes.

"I am long enough around politics to know that this is a difficult issue, he said adding that "when you have to delineate boundaries on anything it is always difficult".

"What I would say is that €1.35bln is being paid into the ANC areas in Ireland over the the programme period 2014 - 2020," he said.

Hogan said the changes will be discussed in the context of the 2018 decision the EU have to take in terms of the future direction of the CAP and in the context of budget constraints in the EU.

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