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2019 Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme

Changes to the 2019 Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme

Q & A for applicants



The Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme has been in existence in various forms in Ireland since the 1970s.  It was previously called the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and the Less Favoured Areas Scheme.  In 2019, the budget for the Scheme will be €250m, and over 95,000 farmers receive a payment under the Scheme each year.

In 2019, the approach to identifying eligible land under the Scheme is changing on foot of requirements set out in EU Regulations.

Why are changes being made to the Scheme?

Up until 2018, Ireland had identified areas eligible under the Scheme using a range of socio economic factors.  The change agreed at EU level requires that eligible land now be identified using the following bio physical criteria

  • Low temperature
  • Dryness
  • Excess soil moisture
  • Limited soil drainage
  • Unfavourable texture and stoniness
  • Shallow rooting depth
  • Poor chemical properties
  • Steep slope

As has been the case until now, eligible lands will be identified at townland level.  This means that it is not individual farms/parcels that are deemed to be eligible, rather this is done at townland level.

What are the impact of these changes? 

This has been a lengthy project, involving protracted technical engagements with the EU Commission.

The outcome of this process 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 will not now be eligible under the new designation.  Farmers impacted financially by this change will receive a degressive phasing out payment in 2019 (80%) and 2020 (40%).  In the majority of cases, the financial impact of this change is relatively small.
  • Some 2,200 new townlands will now become eligible under the new approach and these townlands will be eligible to receive a payment for the first time in 2019.

How were eligible areas under the new Scheme identified?

The process of identifying eligible areas has been carried out at townland level.  The EU Regulations set out that the process follows three steps, which are taken together in identifying eligible areas.

The first step refers to the biophysical criteria listed above.  Essentially, where a townland displays one or more of the listed above at a level above the 60%[1] threshold set out in the Regulationit is identified as ‘constrained’.

This process was then refined by two further steps.  Firstly, a number of areas were identified as having ‘overcome the constraint’ by reference to high levels of stocking density and arable land cover and are thus not eligible for the 2019 ANC Scheme.  This is referred to as ‘fine tuning’ in the EU regulations, and was a mandatory step for all Member States.

Secondly, areas were identified as eligible for the 2019 ANC Scheme as they are facing other specific constraints.  In Ireland’s case, this process identified townlands as eligible areas of specific environmental importance, and townlands facing structural issues relating to farm size, field size, farm fragmentation, and the level of permanent grassland cover. In the case of the category of specific constraint relating to field size and permanent grass cover, this constraint has been further focused by reference to national Family Farm Income data.  Where this category of constraint applies, national level Family Farm Income statistics were used to identify the cohort most in need of financial support.

Taken together, these steps have identified the lands deemed to now be eligible under the Scheme.  For the vast majority of farmers who were eligible under the Scheme until now, they will remain eligible from 2019 – 98% of townlands which were eligible to date, remain eligible.

How will I know if I am still eligible for the scheme?

The Department has published on its website a list of all the townlands that are eligible in 2019 under the Scheme.  This list is organised on a county basis, and farmers can check the list to see if their townland is eligible.   A map showing these eligible areas is also available on the website.

What happens if I have land that is no longer eligible under the Scheme?

Farmers impacted financially by virtue of a townland no longer being eligible under the Scheme will receive a degressive phasing out payment in 2019 and 2020.  In the majority of cases, the financial impact of this change in eligible areas is relatively small.

Can I appeal the decision in relation to the eligibility of my land?

Yes.  An appeals process is now in place for the small number of townlands that will no longer be eligible under the Scheme.  This is an independently chaired appeals process.

The independent appeals committee will process all appeals received.  If a farmer has an appeal in process in relation to the eligibility of his/her land, he/she should still apply for the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme when the application process opens in 2019.

What can I appeal?

If you previously had land in the 2018 ANC scheme and the townland is no longer eligible you can appeal this decision.  Similarly, if a townland was not previously eligible and is still not eligible in 2019, you can appeal this.

In both cases please note

  • Appeals are on the basis of townlands, as it is townlands rather than individual holdings that are the basis for eligibility under the Scheme
  • You can only appeal the data set out in the letter issued to you which explains the reasons for the decisions made at each of the three steps outlined above
  • You can only appeal on townlands in which you declared land in the 2018 ANC or Basic Payment Schemes

What should I do when the BPS / ANC application opens?

The application process for the ANC Scheme will not change.  Since 2018, all applications for the BPS/ANC have been made online.  The process in 2019 will not change – when you are making your application, you simply tick the box on the home page to indicate you are applying for the ANC Scheme.

If you forget to tick the box and you have eligible land under the ANC Scheme, the online system will give you a reminder to go back and tick the box to apply.

If you have an appeal outstanding, you can still tick the box to apply for ANC and the outcome of your appeal will be incorporated into your application.

Finally, as has been the case in previous years, the Department will send the terms and conditions of the Scheme directly to all eligible farmers shortly.

Any queries can be directed

  • via email to or
  • to the Direct Payments Helpdesk at 0761 064420, or
  • in writing to Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, ANC Section, Government Offices, Abbeyleix Road, Portlaoise, Co. Laois, R32 RPA6.                                                                        

[1] 60% of the agricultural area