ANC increase targets smaller hill farms
The Department of Agriculture has set payment rates for the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme, including this year's €25m budget increase.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has decided to target more than half of the additional funding towards smaller hill farms.

Changes in payment rates for this year are as follows:

  • On mountain-type land: the payment for the first 10ha increases to €135/ha from €109.72/ha previously. The next 24ha will attract €112, up from €95.99 previously. This means the maximum payment for a hill farmer with 34ha or more of eligible land is now €4038.
  • On more severely handicapped lowland: the rate is also €104/ha, increasing from €95.99/ha. The maximum payment for 30ha in this category is now €3,120
  • Less severely handicapped land: will receive a payment of €88.25, up from €82.27/ha last year. This brings the maxium 30ha payment to €2,647.50
  • IFA response

    An IFA calculation shows that more than half of the additional €25m will go to hill farmers, who represent 33,000 of nearly 100,000 farmers participating in the ANC scheme. IFA hill committee chair Flor McCarthy welcomed the allocation, saying that hill areas are the most difficult land areas in the country.

    The new rates must now receive European Commission approval through a formal amendment to the Rural Development Programme before payment at the end of this year.

    The additional €25m brings the scheme's budget for this year to €227m. Farming organisations continue to demand the full restoration of pre-recession funding of €250m per year ahead of the full review of the ANC eligibility map to apply next year.

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    Around half of commonage management plans completed – IFA
    Recent Department of Agriculture figures quoted by the IFA show that around 2,000 CMPs remain to be finalised.

    Figures from various sources in recent weeks show that around 200 commonage management plans (CMPs) are submitted every week. The INHFA reported that 2,680 plans were outstanding on 20 June. Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed reported that 2,470 remained to be submitted on 28 June. Now the IFA is quoting an even figure of around 2,000 completed, and as many outstanding.

    At the current rate, it would be the end of September before all CMPs are submitted – a condition for commonage farmers in the GLAS scheme to receive their 15% balance payment for 2017.

    The IFA estimates that 4,000 commonage farmers have not yet received that payment, worth a total of €2.5m.

    Department figures for the end of June showed that Co Donegal had the largest proportion of outstanding CMPs, with only 265 submitted and 579 yet to be completed. Counties Mayo, Galway and Kerry also had a significant majority of CMPs outstanding. Co Cork was the only major commonage county where most CMPs had been submitted.

    IFA hill farming chair Flor McCarthy has said that the Minister should instruct his Department to make contact with planners to determine whether they will complete plans or not. He referred specifically to the recent scaling down of collaboration between Teagasc and FRS on CMPs. "If they are unable to complete CMPs, the Department should appoint planners to finalise plans," he added.

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    BPS drought boost from Brussels
    European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan presented measures to help farmers' cashflow in the current drought conditions this Monday.

    Farmers can receive a 70% Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) advance payment in October instead of the normal 50% in recognition of the current drought, European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan announced on Monday.

    Advance rate

    A higher advance rate of 85% instead of 75% also applies to payments for rural development schemes. Ireland was among the countries requesting this derogation.

    Commissioner Hogan said that a repeat of the measure, already used last year, would “help farmers to be able to buy feed and overcome some unforeseen production expenses that they would have at this time of the year due to the weather”.

    He also allowed grazing and fodder production for this year on land lying fallow under greening rules.