Areas facing natural or specific constraints explained

Areas facing natural or other specific constraints (ANCs) are those that are more difficult to effectively farm due to specific problems caused by natural conditions. In order to prevent this land from being abandoned, the European Union provides support through both rural development and income support schemes.

Criteria for ANCs

To qualify for ANC payments, the land in question has to fall under one of the following three categories:

  • mountain areas, which are demarked due to their altitude or the steepness of their slopes;
  • areas facing significant natural constraints, these are based on 8 biophysical criteria’s, plus a process known as ‘fine tuning’;
  • other areas affected by specific constraints, these are limited to 10% of the EU countries total area and are defined by the EU country itself.

EU countries use the same demarked areas for both rural development spending and for income support payments to ANCs.

Mountain areas

To be classified as mountainous ANCs, farmland has to be either:

  • at an altitude where agriculture is difficult;
  • have steep slopes that prevent the use of standard farming equipment;
  • be north of the 62nd parallel.

Areas facing significant natural constraints

Areas facing significant natural constraints are areas that experience specific conditions that make farming difficult. For land to qualify as being affected by these constraints, it must be negatively impacted by one of the following conditions:

  • low temperature
  • dryness
  • excess soil moisture
  • limited soil drainage
  • unfavourable texture and stoniness
  • shallow rooting depths
  • poor chemical properties
  • steep slopes.

These areas are also subject to a process called ‘fine tuning’. This checks whether there has been significant improvements to the land that mean that farming is not negatively impacted by the conditions. An example being ground with excess soil moisture that has now been artificially drained.

Areas affected by specific constraints

Areas facing specific constraint are made up of land that is negatively impacted by other factors. These are areas where there is a significant risk that farming may cease and where it is important to maintain an active farming community in order to:

  • conserve or improve the environment
  • maintain the countryside
  • preserve the tourist potential of the area
  • protect the coastline.

These areas are defined by the EU countries themselves and they may not exceed 10% of the total area of the country.

Rural development payments for ANCs

EU countries may provide payments to ANCs from rural development funds; these are designed to cover the financial difference between  areas unaffected by constraints and farming in an ANC.

Income support payments for ANCs

EU countries can choose to provide a specific income support payments to ANCs, currently this payment is only provided by Denmark and Slovenia. Up to 5% of the national allocation for income support can be used for top-up payments to farmers in ANC areas.

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