Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy, has said that the recent announcement on the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme increase is a step in the right direction. But he has urged Minister Creed to secure further additional government funding to be directed at farmers on the most marginal land.
Speaking following the announcement Carthy said:
“The savage cuts imposed by Fianna Fáil to the ANC scheme were scandalous. Those cuts have not yet been reinstated but this announcement is a step in the right direction.
“I want to congratulate the months of successful campaigning by disadvantaged farmers that has culminated in a fairer ANC scheme.
“Large public meetings held by organisations such as the INHFA have no doubt been instrumental in securing this rise in payments for the most disadvantaged land. This is despite the organisation not having a seat on advisory Committees such as the Direct Payments or EU Monitoring Committees.
“The increased payment for the mountain-type and other disadvantaged land is still short of what Sinn Féin has been calling for in order to ensure equity between farmers in different parts of the country and on different types of land, however it goes some way towards helping farmers who have seen their incomes drop massively in recent years. There is still scope for the government to allocate additional resources towards the most disadvantaged land.
“The whole aim of the ANC scheme is to ensure the continued use of agricultural lands and protection of the environment in areas where farming would otherwise not be a viable option. The modest rise in difference between the three bands today is a step in the right direction, though disparities will still exist.
“The difference between the frontloaded 1st (most severely handicapped) and 3rd (least severely handicapped) categories has risen from €27 to €46 for the first 10ha, and from €13 to €23 for the remaining hectares. This shows that the additional supports these farmers are getting is still quite modest.
“According to a PQ response to Martin Kenny TD in November, the average amount of mountain land held per applicant under the ANC scheme is 22ha, while the national farm size average is 32 ha. This means the overall amounts received past the frontloaded hectares may come equal.
“The Minister needs to ensure that the amendment to the Rural Development Programme is submitted as fast as possible, preferably with additional funding, so that the changes can be made in time for 2018 payments. I am also calling on him to closely monitor the number of farmers claiming for the mountain-type category which has been dropping in recent years”.