Agriculture and rural development

ANCs (Areas facing natural or other specific constraints)

ANCs (Areas facing natural or other specific constraints)

ANCs (Areas facing natural or other specific constraints)

Why support farmers in Areas facing Natural or other Specific constraints (ANCs)?

The Rural Development Framework provides for payments to farmers located in areas facing natural constraints such as difficult climatic conditions, steep slopes, or soil quality. These payments should mitigate the risks of land abandonment and thus a possibility of desertification, loss of biodiversity, and valuable rural landscape.

In order to be able to grant ANCs payments to farmers, EU Member States designate contiguous areas where such disadvantages are observed. The area designation is based on objective bio-physical criteria laid down in the respective Rural Development legislation (Article 31 of Regulation (EU) 1303/2013).


Which areas are designated as ANCs?

Member States may designate three different categories of ANCs, as described below:

1.    Mountain areas:

  • All areas above an altitude at which agriculture is significantly impeded;
  • All areas below the afore-mentioned altitude,  where a significant proportion of the land is affected by steep slopes preventing the use of standard machinery;
  • All areas north of the 62nd parallel.

2.    Areas, other than mountain areas, facing significant natural constraints:

The designation of this category of ANCs takes place in two steps: First, the areas are delimited according to the set of biophysical criteria. Second, in order to better target ANCs support, Member States have to "fine-tune" their area designations. "Fine-tuning" means in practice to exclude from ANCs support those sub-areas where the natural constraints have been overcome due to human activities. The designation of areas is done at local administrative units, representing larger entities than single plots of land or single farms. The designation is ready only once both the designation according to bio-physical criteria and the so-called fine-tuning are completed.

Step 1: Delimitation applying Biophysical criteria

Areas can be designated as ANCs if at least 60 % of the agricultural area meets the thresholds defined for the following criteria:

  • Low temperature ;
  • Dryness;
  • Excess soil moisture;
  • Limited soil drainage;
  • Unfavourable texture and stoniness;
  • Shallow rooting depths;
  • Poor chemical properties;
  • Steep slopes.

Step 2: Fine-tuning

"Fine-tuning" shall ensure the ANCs support is not granted in sub-areas where natural constraints, which ANCs support aims to compensate, have been offset by human intervention and/or technical progress. Examples for this could be the use of drainage, irrigation or greenhouses but also planting vines in stony or steep areas.

As the delimitation based on the biophysical criteria, also fine-tuning takes place at the level of LAU2s or other local units and not at the level of individual farms.

3.    Areas affected by specific constraints:

As a third category of ANCs, Member States may designate up to 10% of their territory as "areas affected by specific constraints" in order to capture further needs, such as specific requirements to conserve or improve the environment, to maintain the countryside, to preserve the tourist potential of the area or to protect coastlines.

Areas may also be eligible for payments under this category if they face certain criteria, established by Member States, reflecting specific constraints. Member States may designate this ANCs category also on the basis of a combination of the biophysical criteria mentioned in the previous section.


How is ANCs support granted to farmers?

ANCs support is granted to all farmers located in a ANCs designated area. Payment levels are calculated on the basis of differences in costs or income as resulting from natural constraints and in comparison to areas not suffering from those natural or specific constraints.

Payment levels can be differentiated due to the severity of natural constraints or by farming system (for example: extensive, intensive, arable, pasture). ANCs payments must not be linked to the specific types or volume of production. 


Legislation and guidance documents