Farmland support payments must be protected during Department review

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FARMERS who receive support payments for land designated under the current ANC (Areas of Natural Constraints) system must no lose out as the Department of Agriculture conducts a review of the scheme.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Jobs Enterprise and Innovation Niall Collins TD said that a wide number of farmers in Limerick are currently eligible to receive ANC payments under the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS).

Nationally, there are 100,000 farmers receiving payments nationally where land is classified under three categories: mountain type lands, severely handicapped lowland and less severely handicapped lowland farms.

Farmers on mountain type land will be paid €109.71/ha for the first 10 hectares farmed with a sheep, cattle or goat enterprise or a combination of all three, while the payment rate drops to €95.99/ha for the remaining land up to maximum payable area 34 hectares.

The payment rate for severely handicapped lowland is €95.99/ha up to a maximum overall area of 30 hectares, while farmers on less severely handicapped lowland farms are paid €82.27/ha up to a maximum of 30 hectares.

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Under the review, farmlands are being re-designated according to a set of bio-physical criteria and not the range of socio-economic factors currently used.

“It’s extremely important that all participants remain eligible for their payments after the review, given the severe challenges facing primary producers – falling prices, income volatility and reduced profitability in most sectors”, said Deputy Collins.

“The ANC scheme is vitally important in helping maintain the continued use of agricultural lands and ensure farmers serve as custodians of the Irish countryside.

Deputy Collins added that restoring ANC payments to 2007 levels remains a key Fianna Fáil policy.

“Future payment increases, as is expected in 2018, should reflect the land constraint.”

Meantime, Deputy Collins has urged farmers and landowners to consider the latest Teagasc led campaign for forestry as a means of diversifying their activities and income streams.

“Returns from forestry are strongly competitive compared with many other farm enterprises, and there are many farm schemes to assist farmers interested in forestry.

Since 1980, nearly 20,000 private forest owners have received grant aid to establish forests.

“Increasing afforestation will likely play a crucial role in helping Ireland meet its climate change commitments, as forests act as important carbon sinks,” added Collins.

“Engaging in forestry can be both economically and environmentally beneficial, and I would urge farmers with spare land to consider it” added Deputy Collins.