UFU hill farming chairman, Ian Buchanan, says that while the announcement of payment rates for the 2017 ANC scheme is very welcome, DAERA must find ways to extend the scheme beyond 2018 given that, as is well demonstrated, the total pot of funding streams coming into the ANC is decreasing significantly.
Minister Michelle McIlveen announced the payment rates will be £56.47 per hectare for the first 200 hectares, and £42.35 per hectare above 200 hectares. The split rates are a requirement of the EU Regulation which states that payments must be degressive above a threshold level of claimed area per holding.
Miss McIlveen said: “This is the second year of the Pillar II Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme and farmers claimed for ANC payments as part of their Single Application in May 2016.
“The payment rate for the first 200 hectares of eligible forage land claimed in the Severely Disadvantaged Area will be £56.47 per hectare, and the payment rate for eligible forage land claimed above 200 hectares will be £42.35 per hectare.”
Mr Buchanan said these payments are a crucial element of farm incomes in these areas and he welcomed the commitment by the minister to issue these in March. “This will provide some much needed reassurance and certainty for farmers facing a difficult cash flow situation, after another year of volatile prices,” said Mr Buchanan. “Volatility makes it difficult for businesses to plan ahead to improve margins. The minister’s decision for 2018 confirms the importance of ANC payments. These are a vital income boost for farmers who have to deal with the challenges of working on difficult land and with a harsher climate,” he said.
While the minister has decided to extend the ANC scheme, albeit at 40% of its current level, by a further year into 2018, the UFU says it is crucial DAERA find ways to extend the scheme beyond then to help avert the natural decay of many of these areas over the longer term. It says there has been an underspend in the ANC scheme in the last two years, and that similar underspends are likely with other Rural Development Programme schemes potentially leaving monies available for further extensions.