Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, has confirmed in a letter to Mairead McGuinness MEP for Sligo that membership of the Monitoring Committee for Ireland’s Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014 to 2020 for the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) is currently under consideration.
The Minister has also confirmed that a decision on extra funding for Areas of Natural Constraints (ANCs) is not yet complete and awaits an analysis of technical data for the design of a new ANC scheme with new eligible lands designated.
“I very much welcome that the Minister has these issues under active consideration in his Department,” she said. “These farmers have particular concerns because they operate in areas with the most severe biophysical constraints.”
Ms McGuinness met representatives of the INHFA in Longford this week.
“The Minister pointed out that the 2018 scheme will involve the design of a new scheme with new eligible lands designated using a set list of biophysical criteria and new rates of payment.
“He confirmed that an additional €25m is available for the scheme next year and that this money could be used to provide degressive payments to those farmers who no longer qualify under the new criteria.
“This is a contentious issue as many farmers in very difficult areas believe that additional funding should be targeted to meet their needs,” McGuinness said.
A decision on any required additional funding is not expected until the ANC re-designation process is complete and there is a clearer picture of the results of the process.
On the question of using any unspent money from the Rural Development Programme to provide additional money for the ANC scheme, the Minister said he is committed to drawing down the total €2.19billion, bringing the total spend under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 to some €4 billion over the lifetime of the programme.
“The review of the ANCs is a major issue for thousands of farmers and there is pressure from those farmers in the most disadvantaged regions for higher payments, given that the areas in which they farm are difficult and have limited options and low incomes,” McGuinness said.