Thursday, 6 December 2018

Ceisteanna (14)

Niamh Smyth


14. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the ANC review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51189/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I welcome the publication of the ANC review and that farmers in Cavan-Monaghan are unaffected by the loss of any areas. Will the Minster make a statement on the review?

Under the current rural development regulation and subsequent amendments under the omnibus regulation, member states are required to change the approach to the designation of land under the areas of natural constraints scheme. To date, my Department had been identifying eligible areas using a range of socio-economic indicators such as family farm income, population density, percentage of working population engaged in agriculture and stocking density. From 2019, eligible areas must instead be designated using the following list of biophysical criteria, namely, low temperature; dryness; excess soil moisture; limited soil drainage; unfavourable texture and stoniness; shallow rooting depth; poor chemical properties; and steep slope. This process has now been completed and in recent weeks I have published details of the outcome and completed a series of consultation meetings with key stakeholders.

The outcome of the review project can be summarised as follows. The vast majority of land that was eligible under the existing scheme will remain eligible under the new approach. Some 700 townlands that would have previously been eligible are not eligible under the new designation. Farmers impacted financially by this change will receive a degressive phasing out payment in 2019 and 2020. More than 2,000 townlands will now be eligible under the new approach and will be eligible to receive a payment for the first time in 2019.

These changes to the 2019 scheme require a formal amendment to Ireland's rural development programme. This process is now under way to allow the 2019 ANC scheme to open for applications early next year. A separate appeals process with an independent chair is being put in place and I will make an announcement on this matter shortly.

An additional allocation of €25 million has been provided for the areas of natural constraint scheme. Cavan-Monaghan is a Border region. This morning, colleagues have spoken of the impact of Brexit. I ask that positive discrimination be shown towards farmers in Cavan-Monaghan when that €25 million is allocated. Much of the land in the area is of poor quality and we have suffered as a result of flooding and the fodder crisis. In light of harsh weather conditions, Brexit and other factors, I ask that preferential treatment be shown in the allocation of the additional funds to benefit farmers on poorer land for whom ANC payments are of great importance. ANC payments make a great contribution to the local economy given that farmers in the area are very much constrained in what they can do with their poor land.

The Deputy will be aware that we have some form on this as we also increased the allocation in the previous year by €25 million. In allocating that, we targeted those who hold the most disadvantaged lands of the three categories. Of the €25 million, some €14 million went to the most disadvantaged category, €9 million went to the intermediate category and the balance went to the low land disadvantaged area. I am inclined to take the same approach in 2019. We have consulted farm organisations to elicit their views. I appreciate the Deputy's observations on the farming landscape in Cavan-Monaghan.

I welcome the Minister's engagement with farmers in the area who are at the coalface. When will the 2019 payments be issued? How will the payment changes or categories impact farmers in the Cavan-Monaghan area?

Payments are usually made in the back end of the year, usually around the time of the ploughing championship. There are two tranches of payments, with the initial tranche made around September, and I do not expect that will change. The application process will be simultaneous with applications for basic payments. Farmers who have ANC entitlements will simply tick a box on the basic payment form and the payment will be processed accordingly.

Questions Nos. 15 to 18, inclusive, replied to with Written Answers.