Farmers in the west of Ireland will not be left behind in the review of the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANCs) – that was the strong message that came from last night’s Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) meeting in Co. Mayo.
It was standing room only at the meeting, with almost 500 farmers in attendance at Hotel Newport in Newport.
Fianna Fail TDs Lisa Chambers and Dara Calleary were in attendance at the meeting, along with Sinn Fein’s Rose Conway-Walsh and Independent MEP Marian Harkin.
Opening the meeting, John Moran, INHFA Mayo Chairman, said that farmers in the west mean business on the ANC review.
“This money is ours, it’s for our land and we’ve got to show the politicians that we mean business. We’re entitled to this money.”
Colm O’Donnell INHFA Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Chair said that during the last CAP reform, farmers in the west did not have a voice at the bargaining table.
“That’s evident because of the small amount of redistribution. Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Ciolas [Phil Hogan’s predecessor] proposed a flat rate payment for every farmer in the country – but that didn’t happen.
“The ANC was originally designed for the counties west of the Shannon and Donegal and became extended over time. Now with the scientific review, we’re saying that science should win out and that the payments are targeted at the areas that have the natural constraints on their land.”
EU Monitoring Committee
The EU Monitoring Committee on the Rural Development Programme, which will discuss the review of ANCs and consult on the digital maps which are to determine land constraints, is made up of stakeholders, people from the European Commission and Parliament, the Government and the farm organisations.
However, to date and despite being established for two years and a membership of almost 6,000 and growing, the INHFA’s request to sit on the committee has been denied by the Minister for Agriculture, O’Donnell said.
“The Oireachtas Agriculture Committee has written to the Minister saying that the INHFA should become an equal partner and stakeholder on that very important committee.
“It will eventually have a say on what format this ANC goes back to be amended in the RDP.
When this ANC review is being put through that committee, if we’re not on that committee then we’ll be outside the door when that decision is taken, because we’ll not let it go back to Brussels [without having our say on it].
O’Donnell also said that the association will have to have an opportunity to discuss any new areas that may come in under a specific constraint before the maps, which have the biophysical criteria superimposed on them, go back to Brussels.
The maps are still being drafted by the Department of Agriculture.
INHFA’s message on the ANC review is simple: the ANC payment must reflect fairly the constraint experienced.
O’Donnell said that the ANC Scheme does exactly what it says on the tin for poor land and that’s why INHFA has got to target the payments there.
“This is the payment that we are entitled to and INHFA won’t be giving up on that fight [to ensure farmers get what they’re entitled to].
“We will not put up with a situation where the constrained lands don’t reflect the payments.”
INHFA’s ANC Proposal
The association has called for a doubling of payments under the review of the scheme, will require increasing the ANC budget to €300m.
INHFA has developed a three-point plan on ANC’s on what it believes should change in the review:
Front loading payments on the first 20ha at a rate of €250/ha.
Increasing the rate per hectare on the next 14ha to €170/ha.
Increasing the overall number of eligible hectares from 34 to 40 with a payment rate of €70/ha on the remaining 6ha.