The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has backed the Northern Ireland Assembly's vote to implement a new areas of natural constraint (ANC) scheme. The vote took place at Stormont on Wednesday 4 March.

UFU deputy president David Brown said: “The Northern Ireland Assembly’s vote in favour of a motion to reintroduce ANC payments is a positive outcome.

"For more than three years, the absence of local government and ministers at Stormont has stalled many much-needed strategic decisions including matters of financial support such as ANC payments. This has had a serious impact on our farmers in severely disadvantage areas.”

He remarked on spring being a costly time of year, when cold weather and wet conditions restrict grass growth and stock turnout, creating additional feeding expenditure.

“Following the voting outcome, we would like to see DAERA working towards a solution that would provide direct support for vulnerable sectors going forward,” he said.

Severely disadvantaged

“Only weeks ago, DAERA’s figures on farm income stressed how agriculture revenue for farmers in severely disadvantaged areas (SDAs) has continued to fall, becoming totally unviable.

"To add to this, the market is not delivering a margin for primary producers, especially those in SDA areas,” said Brown.

He highlighted the fact that suckler beef cow numbers are at their lowest since 1988 and breeding ewe numbers are also declining.

“It is vital that the DAERA minister takes the result of this vote and recent farming statistics on board so that SDA farmers and all vulnerable sectors get the support they require to sustain their farming business and receive better returns,” he said.

Minister's statement

As reported by the Irish Farmers Journal, agriculture minister Edwin Poots said that no such payment would be happening in 2020.

“I want to make it clear that I do not intend to introduce an ANC scheme this year: I cannot. It is simply not possible,” said Poots.

He explained that if he was to introduce an ANC scheme the following year, it would have to be funded by scaling back payments to all farmers, and redirecting this money to the SDA.

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