Disadvantaged NI farmers to get scheme cash in March

Northern Irish farmers will start to receive their money under the 2017 Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme in early March.

Payment rates will be £56.47/ha for the first 200ha of eligible forage land in the severely disadvantaged areas (SDAs), falling to £42.35/ha above that.

This is the same as last year and is worth about £2,000 to each claimant.

See also: One more year of hill payments for NI farmers

The ANC scheme is part of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 and is designed to compensate for additional costs and income forgone from farming in the SDAs, which make up about 44% of the land area.

The department received some 10,000 applications for the current scheme, covering about 350,000ha. The total pot amounted to about £20m.

Scheme extension

Last month, the department of agriculture announced the scheme would be extended for one more year. Farmers in the SDAs can therefore make another claim with their 2017 single applications, for payment in 2018.

However, the budget will be smaller, at just £8m, so farmers can expect a lower payment.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed the latest payment announcement, but has urged the Northern Ireland assembly to extend the scheme beyond 2018.

UFU hill farming chairman Ian Buchanan said: “These payments are a crucial element of farm incomes in these areas.

“Given the failure by the department, to date, to introduce a new agri-environment scheme, it is crucial the door is left open for further extensions.

“Without a commitment to support hill farms, the department is risking the future viability of businesses that make a major contribution to the environment, the wider economy and rural communities.”