Offaly/North Tipperary TD and Minister for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy has criticised calls by Sinn Féin for a reduction in the area of land that is currently designated eligible for payments under the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme.
“Sinn Féin’s demands are grossly unfair, and would result in a significant reduction in funds for lowland farmers," she claimed.
"Sinn Fein are on the record as saying they want to see a restriction in the amount of land designated as ANC, with payments weighted in favour of those in upland areas. When considering the review of the ANC scheme we must arrive at a set of criteria that is fair to all farmers," the Fine Gael deputy said.
“The ANC payment is worth €201m annually to almost 95,000 farmers throughout Ireland. In addition 75% of the country is currently designated under the ANC," she added.
Corcoran Kennedy said that the number of local farmers attending meetings regarding the ANC in recent months shows "the concern among farmers" about both the ANC and farm income as a whole. "A loss of money for farmers is not just a loss for one individual or family but a loss for their parish and community."
She insisted that Fine Gael has been vocal in its stance that areas of land that are currently designated under the scheme are maintained. "My colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, is striving to ensure that the outcome of the review is fair and balanced, in the interests of all farmers with land that is considered disadvantaged."
“At present, the areas that are currently designated are being reviewed in every member state of the European Union. To date this designation has been based on a range of socio-economic factors. From 2018, or possibly later, eligible areas must be instead designated using a new list of criteria involving a range of biophysical criteria," Marcella explained.
“Minster Creed has commenced work in this regard and over the coming months this analysis will identify areas deemed to be facing natural constraints. In line with our commitments, as outlined in the Programme for a Partnership Government, Fine Gael will enhance ANC payments, and will increase funding in this area by €25 million by 2018," she concluded.
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