Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Marc Mac Sharry says the Agriculture Minister must give assurances to farmers that their ANC payments will not be cut as part of a review being carried out by his Department.  He also wants to see increased payments, based on land constraints. Farmers in the North West are becoming increasingly anxious about possible changes to the eligibility criteria.

Deputy Mac Sharry commented, “ANC payments are a vital support for farmers in Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Cavan, the majority of whom qualify for the scheme as they are working on poor or mountainous land.  These payments ensure the continuous use of these lands as well as protecting the environment and promoting sustainable farming.

“The scheme accounts for more than 80% of all Basic Payment Scheme funding, and for many farmers here in the North West the payments are the difference between being able to continue farming the land and remain viable, or having to let their business go.

“The current ANC review must ensure that all farmers who currently qualify remain eligible to draw down payments.  Any changes must be based on a range of socio-economic factors such as limited soil drainage, poor chemical properties or steep slopes.  I also want to see the payments restored to 2007 levels – this has always been a key Fianna Fáil policy.  ANC farmers on the most severely constrained land should also see an increased payment to reflect the day to day issues that they face.

“I have attended a number of meetings arranged by farming organisations to discuss this issue, and the anxiety among the farming community is palpable.  Small family farmers are already struggling to cope with a range of issues including falling prices, income volatility and lower profit margins.  The threat of cuts to their ANC payment is deeply worrying and must be ruled out by the Minister.

“I am calling on Minister Creed to engage with farming organisations before finalising the terms of this review.  He must make sure that no farmer is adversely affected by any changes which may be adopted as a result of this Departmental review”.