Increased Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) payments of up to €6,000 and a doubling in funding for the walks scheme are part of a 10-point plan launched by the IFA at the national hill forum.

IFA president Joe Healy criticised GLAS, saying that it does not “reflect the work hill farmers carry out”.

He has called for greater ambition for environmental schemes and stated that farmers enrolled in the scheme were currently being short-changed.

We need to be able to properly capture the real and full value of this quality product

Minister Michael Ring opened the event in Westport on Monday 10 September, and IFA hill chair Flor McCarthy impressed upon him the need to support hill farmers.

Increased ANC payments are expected from 17 September. The extra funding brings total ANC funding to €228m.

IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy also insisted that there needed to be a strong vial price for light lamb.

“We need to be able to properly capture the real and full value of this quality product from the marketplace,” Dennehy said.

The 10-point plan includes:

1. EID: sheep farmers are not prepared to carry the €2m cost of EID and Minister Creed must fund the additional cost involved by €1 per head. Farmers selling store lambs destined for slaughter should not be penalised with the additional costs of two tags.

2. Sheep Welfare Scheme: an additional €5 per ewe payment must be provided in Budget 2019 from the underspend in the Sheep Welfare Scheme and extra national resources. This is critical for both hill sheep and lowland farmers.

3. Hill lamb markets: sheep factories and Bord Bia need to improve market returns for hill sheep farmers and develop sustainable and quality market outlets capable of paying viable hill lamb prices.

4. CAP funding: the Government must resist the European Commission attempts to cut the CAP budget and hill farmers must get stronger support under the Basic Payment, ANCs, agri-environment and other farm schemes.

5. Environmental schemes: under a new environmental scheme, the maximum payment should be increased to €10,000, with higher payments for designated and commonage land.

6. Designated SAC/SPA land: farmers who have restrictions imposed on farming and other developments must be compensated through a standardised per hectare payment. This payment must be paid by the NPWS and through the Rural Development Programme.

7. ANC review: under the upcoming ANC review, the new payment rates should reflect the difficult land in mountain areas and hill farmers must get a maximum payment of up to €6,000.

8. The Walks Scheme: the scheme, which currently supports 40 walks and benefits 2,000 farmers, must be doubled to an allocation of €4m. This was promised in the Programme for Government and must be delivered on.

9. Eligible land: flexibilities must be introduced for hill farmers to claim marginal land for payment with the necessary latitude taken into account where farming conditions are extremely difficult.

10. Implementation of Heritage Bill: the regulations governing the burning of gorse next March must be introduced in a flexible manner following the recent passing by Dáil Eireann of the Heritage Bill.

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