Politicians and members of the IFA gathered at the Alexander Hotel in Dublin on Tuesday to discuss key priorities for the ongoing ANC review.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, the IFA rural development executive secretary said the review constitutes a “major change” in the classification of disadvantaged areas, of which 75% of the country is currently designated.

“This is a major change in the context of how you classify the ANCs, which were formerly the disadvantaged areas. We’re looking at new criteria here,” he said.

While the current ANC scheme classifies land based on socioeconomic and biophysical criteria, from 2018 onwards the scheme will only take biophysical criteria into account. This comprises, among others, low temperature, dryness, excess soil moisture, limited soil drainage and poor chemical properties.

There are some people who will be left out who feel they should be in and so forth

Gunning added he is not sure if everyone will be happy with the new classification of disadvantaged areas: “There are some people who will be out who will feel they should be in and people who are in who others feel should be out and so forth,” he said. “But our priority is to protect the areas that are currently in the scheme and also hopefully bring in new farmers.”

Listen to “Politicians lobbied on ANC review” on Spreaker.

Martin Kenny, Sinn Féin TD for Sligo-Leitrim, said that the IFA and opposition politicians need to see the maps the Government intends to send to Brussels.

If you lived on good land near a town with economic deprivation, you were included in the scheme

“We need to make sure we have the opportunity to change the plan or maps before they are sent for approval to Brussels,” he said. “It is absolutely vital that the farmers who live on the land who have the most constraint will get the most money from it.”

Kenny welcomed the fact that socioeconomic factors will no longer be taken into account in the new scheme, saying that if you lived on good land near a town with economic deprivation, you were included in the scheme.

“That isn’t going to be the case after this and it shouldn’t be.”

Increase in the budget

Charlie McConalogue, Fianna Fáil spokesman on agriculture, said it is important there is an increase in the budget up to the original allocation of €250m/year. The allocation currently stands at €205m, after the budget was cut during the height of the recession in 2009. The Government has, however, committed to an extra €25m for ANCs in Budget 2018.

“The Government has significantly underspent in relation to the national exchequer element of the Rural Development Programme. In terms of that underspend, the Government need to follow through and deliver on their spending commitment in the current CAP and the ANC should be a priority for that underspend,” he said.

Currently, 75% of Ireland is classified as ANC. These payments are worth €205m to 95,000 farmers.

ANCs are divided into offshore islands, mountain grazing areas, more severely handicapped, and less severely handicapped areas. The scheme provides payments on a per-hectare basis for those farming these areas.

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‘It is crucial that ANC scheme funding is increased in budget 2018’