West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer is preparing to bring a bill before Stormont that aims to reinstate the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) payment.

The 2017 scheme year was the last year of the ANC scheme in NI, with £8m paid to farmers out of Stormont funds.

Before that, the scheme was funded for a two-year period by a £20m annual budget from the NI Rural Development Programme.

Around 8,800 farmers were eligible, and payments were made on Severely Disadvantaged Area land at a rate of £56/ha for the first 200ha claimed, with £42/ha paid thereafter.

The UK government’s Agriculture Act, which became law last year, currently gives the option of an ANC scheme in NI.

However, McAleer’s private members bill will aim to make this a legal requirement.

The Sinn Féin MLA said that the bill was to help “address inequalities” as farmers in upland areas “face higher production costs and have less agricultural opportunities”. He pointed out that ANC schemes continue to operate in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

Most private members bills that come before Stormont are unsuccessful and they are primarily used to raise awareness about an issue.

A proposal for a “rural disadvantaged area scheme” as part of a new system of farm support in NI has been included in a report sent to DAERA by the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the Livestock and Meat Commission and the NI Meat Exporters’ Association.