The main topic of today’s forum was ANC payments and how it will benefit Ireland’s hill farmers.
IFA President Joe Healy was in attendance of the event and stated his hope that hill farmers will see some of the supposed €25m increase in ANC scheme payments. He said these payments must be paid out by the Department in 2018.
He said he hopes that Hill farmers do not get over looked when it comes to the issuing of these payments as they already face severe restrictions, and challenges which impact their potential to make increased income. He also said these restrictions placed on hill farmers are due to hill and mountain land being designated as SPA or SAC.
Mr. Healy then spoke of what hill farmers have to offer the industry, saying that they provide vital public goods in the shape of environmental improvements across these lands, and biodiversity. He added that because of these services/goods that hill farmers deserved to receive payment.
This view was echoed by The IFA’s national Hill Committee Chairman, Pat Dunne. He informed the forum of the extent of low incomes putting stress on Hill Farmers, with most earning on averaged €283 per week or €14,743 annually. He then added that “The figures show that direct payments are a vital support, whether it is Basic Payment, ANC, GLAS or Sheep Welfare. Direct payments for hill farmers must be protected and enhanced”.
Mr. Dunne said it is of “vital importance” that the Heritage bill is passed in the Dáil this week, which he feels will allow for better management of hill and mountain pastures.
Also speaking at the forum was the IFA’s National Sheep Chairman, John Lynskey.
Mr. Lynskey spoke to the listeners about lamb process and the progress made by Irelands hill farmers in recent years with regards improving breeding and production practices.
He also announced that a new Sheep Welfare Scheme has been secured by the IFA, and says it will be worth up to €25m. He told the forum of the estimated €5m underspend, which he informed listeners will be spent to help protect the sheep sector.