Commitment to ANC support needed, says UFU

Friday, 11 November, 2016

Ulster Farmers’ Union Hill Farming chairman, Ian Buchanan, has urged politicians to show their commitment to the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme as continuing uncertainty around the future of the scheme is hindering businesses decisions in hill areas. He warned that there would be long term environmental and economic consequences, should the ANC be scrapped.  These comments were made after the UFU met the AERA committee at Stormont.

Article key points

  • Politicians urged to show their commitment to the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme as continuing uncertainty is hindering businesses decisions in hill areas.
  • Possibly long term environmental and economica consequences if scheme is scrapped.
  • End the ANC scheme it would mean the immediate loss of £20 million a year to farmers in severely disadvantaged areas, which would eventually leave a huge void in primary cattle and sheep production currently being produced for the lowlands.
  • Scotland and the Republic of Ireland have already committed to continuing their ANC schemes. Both have also developed other ideas targeted at encouraging livestock production.
  • Encouraging politicians to look at the ANC scheme in a broader sense and consider the environmental and tourism benefits.

“This uncertainty is causing real problems for farmers in severely disadvantaged areas when it comes to planning and making decisions for the future.  Farming in these areas comes with distinct challenges, linked to landscape and climate, and these have a big impact on production costs.  The ANC scheme recognises this and provides a support payment that helps to offset these natural constraints,” said Mr Buchanan.

The hill farming chairman said that if DAERA decides to end the ANC scheme it would mean the immediate loss of £20 million a year to farmers in severely disadvantaged areas, which would eventually leave a huge void in primary cattle and sheep production currently being produced for the lowlands.

“Scotland and the Republic of Ireland have already committed to continuing their ANC schemes. Both have also developed other ideas targeted at encouraging livestock production.  Northern Ireland is in danger of being left behind if our government fails to deliver similar support,” said Mr Buchanan. He added that direct support and agri-environment payments remain the biggest source of income for most farms in severely disadvantaged areas.  “These payments support farmers in managing difficult landscapes. Removing them would not only be to the detriment of the agri-food industry, but would also have major environmental implications,” he said.

Mr Buchanan is encouraging politicians to look at the ANC scheme in a broader sense and consider the environmental and tourism benefits. “Much of the land in SDA areas acts as a carbon sink. And in terms of tourism, our picturesque countryside is being marketed worldwide to attract visitors. The ANC scheme supports farmers to maintain the countryside to a standard that is expected by tourists. When you consider the broader picture, the ANC delivers value for money for Northern Ireland,” said Mr Buchanan.