The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, T.D., today announced details in relation to the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme for 2019.

The ANC Scheme (previously referred to as the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and the Less Favoured Areas Scheme) has been a vital support for farmers in Ireland since the 1970s.  In 2019, EU Regulations require that all Member States change their approach to designating townlands that are eligible for support under the Scheme.  This new approach is based on identifying townlands that are considered to be constrained by reference to a range of bio physical criteria set out at EU level.

The Minister commented “The process of identifying eligible townlands under the new EU rules has been a protracted and complex process.  I am aware of the importance of this Scheme to farmers across the country, and so I am today announcing details of this process in order to provide assurance to farmers ahead of the application process next year.”

For the vast majority of farmers, the townlands they farm which have been eligible up to now will remain eligible under the new Scheme.  In total, c. 98% of currently eligible townlands will remain eligible under the new Scheme.  In addition, over 2,000 townlands will now also have eligible land under the Scheme for the first time in 2019.

The Minister added “given the importance of the ANC scheme, I am now engaging in consultation with stakeholder groups in relation to finalising the design of the new ANC Scheme for 2019.  In addition to the extra €25m provided for the Scheme in 2018, a further €23m will now be added to the Scheme in 2019 and the details of the allocation of this money will form part of discussions with stakeholder groups.  The aim of this process is to ensure that a new Scheme is in place and clearly communicated to farmers in advance of the opening of the application process in 2019.”

The Minister also outlined that there will be an appeals process in place to deal with queries from farmers in the small number of townlands that are no longer eligible under the new Scheme in 2019.  This appeals committee will be set up with an independent chairman, and will ensure clarity for all farmers affected by changes to the Scheme.  The Minister confirmed that “my Department will be writing to relevant farmers shortly to outline the position with the ANC Scheme for 2019, and to provide details of the independent appeals process.  It is important that farmers are clearly informed in relation to the 2019 ANC Scheme and that there is an independent process of appeal for farmers who wish to appeal the outcome of this process.”

For farmers who wish to confirm that the townlands in which they are farming are eligible for support under the 2019 Scheme, a full list of eligible townlands organised on a county basis is available here.   A map showing the eligible areas for 2019 is also available on the website, along with a Question and Answers document for farmers.

The finalisation of the new Scheme (including increased payment rates in 2019) is now the subject of consultation with relevant stakeholders. Given that the Scheme is co-funded by the EU Commission as part of Ireland’s €4bn Rural Development Programme (RDP), 2014-2020, the 2019 Scheme must also now be agreed with the EU Commission as a formal amendment to our RDP.  Following this process, details of the terms and conditions of the 2019 Scheme will be communicated to farmers in the usual way.