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Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme 2019

Changes to the 2019 Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme

Q &A for applicants

 

Background

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 (20%).  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.  Essentially, where a townland displays one or more of the biophysical criteria listed above at a level above the 60%[1] threshold set out in the Regulation it is identified as ‘constrained’.

This process was then refined by two processesset out in the EU Regulations.  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.

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 www.agriculture.gov.ie 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.

The Department will also be writing to farmers shortly to outline some further detail in relation to this process.

Are there other changes being made to the scheme?

Based on the identification of the eligible areas for 2019, a new Scheme has to now be agreed with the EU Commission who provide co-funding for the Scheme.

While this process is ongoing, it is not intended to change other key requirements under the Scheme.  For example, it is intended to maintain the current stocking rate requirements that have been in place for a number of years.

The Department is also consulting with the farm bodies in relation to the shape of the new Scheme.  While these discussions are ongoing, it would be expected that the current categorisations of land will largely remain – ie there will be different payment levels for lands that experience different levels of disadvantage/constraint.

Once the consultation process and the formal agreement process with the EU are completed, the final details of the Scheme will be publicised in the normal way.

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 will be put in place for the small number of townlands that will no longer be eligible under the Scheme.  This will be an independently chaired appeals process.  The Department will be writing to relevant farmers in the coming weeks, and this letter will include details of the 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.

Will the payment levels / categorisation of lands change?

The shape of the new Scheme (categorisation of land and payment rates) is currently the subject of discussions with the farm bodies and stakeholder groups and with the EU Commission.  However, it should be noted that there is an additional €23m for the Scheme for 2019 and thus it is expected that payment rates will increase under the Scheme.

These increases in payment rates will be in addition to the payment rate increase put in place for the 2018 Scheme.

The payment rates in place for off shore island farming under the ANC Scheme are not impacted by this process.

Once these details have been finalised, they will be publicised by the Department.

Are new lands being made eligible under the scheme?

Yes.  Some new townlands will now become eligible under the Scheme which were not eligible in previous years.  In addition, it is a requirement that tillage land will now also be eligible for payment.

The list of townlands published on the www.agriculture.gov.ie will indicate on a county level what townlands are eligible in 2019.  Eligible areas are also available to view on a map on the website.

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.

Will the Department be communicating directly with farmers in relation to these changes?

Yes.  In addition to consulting with the farm bodies and other stakeholder groups, the Department will be writing directly to relevant farmers.  A list of eligible townlands is available on www.agriculture.gov.ie, along with a map of the changes in 2019.

As the final details of the 2019 are agreed with the EU Commission, these will also be published.

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 in the new year.

Any queries can be directed

  • via email to ANC2019queries@agriculture.gov.ie 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