Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon says the Agriculture Minister must ensure that any changes made to the ANC scheme do not result in cuts to farmers’ payments.  Minister Michael Creed has commissioned a review of the ANC (Areas of Natural Constraints) scheme, which could see the qualification criteria changed from socio-economic factors to bio-physical features.

“This is a massive issue for farmers across Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Donegal as many of them are working on land, which is poor or mountainous, with the majority of farmers in these areas currently qualifying for the scheme.  In fact, ANC payments account for more than 80% of Basic Payment Scheme funding.  I met with representatives from the IFA last night, who expressed serious concern about possible changes to the programme.

“Small family farmers have been struggling to remain viable in the face of falling prices, income volatility and reduced profit margins.  Any possibility of cuts to the ANC payment will cause serious problems for these farmers and must be avoided at all costs.  All lands, which were originally designated as ANC areas, must be protected under the new scheme.

“I would like the Department of Agriculture to engage with farming organisations and to listen to the very real concerns of farmers on the ground.  Any changes should be made in consultation with the people who will be affected by them.  I would also urge the Minister to ensure that the process is carried out in a timely manner to ensure that farmers are well aware of any changes well in advance of them coming into practice.

“Fianna Fáil has always realised the importance of the ANC scheme to small farmers and we have consistently called for the restoration of payments to 2007 levels.  We would like to see it further increased for farmers working on the most severely constrained land to reflect the difficult conditions.

“Minister Creed must ensure that no farmer who currently qualifies for the ANC scheme is penalised under any new changes which may be brought in as a result of this review”.