ANC scheme support is vital - UFU

Thursday, 5 October, 2017

The Ulster Farmers’ Union hill farming chairman, John Kennedy, says that the Area of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme is a vital support mechanism for hill areas and that DAERA was wrong to decide to end the scheme in 2018. “We are calling on DAERA to reconsider. It is a crucial scheme that ensures farm businesses operating on severely disadvantaged land remain viable,” says Mr Kennedy.

Almost 50 per cent of Northern Ireland’s suckler cows and 60 per cent of ewes are found in hill areas. This breeding population produces a significant quantity of livestock that are then used for further breeding or finishing on lowland farms before going for processing. “These farms are strategically important. They ensure that the raw materials are available for the red meat industry to fulfil consumer demands,” says Mr Kennedy.

The ANC scheme’s minimum stocking rate encourages farmers to keep livestock on some of the country’s most difficult land. Mr Kennedy says, “It can be hard to make a living in these areas. The scheme makes it economically viable to rear livestock, keeping people on the land and protecting key skills that are woven into the social fabric of rural communities. It also supports important environmental conservation work, which is highly dependent on grazing livestock.”

Without the financial incentive to keep stock in hill areas there is a major risk that production will decline and land abandonment will occur. Mr Kennedy says, “This has already happened in Scotland when decoupling was introduced. DAERA must ensure Northern Ireland does not fall the same way.”