By Philip Clarke

OILSEED growers will receive area aid balancing payments of less than £100/ha (£40/acre) when cheques go out in March and April.

This is considerably less than last year, after a five-pronged attack on direct aid, made up as follows:

  • A 6.2% cut for the UK exceeding its oilseeds base area in 1997;
  • An 18.32% cut for further over-plantings in 1998;
  • A 7% cut for market prices exceeding the so-called world reference level;
  • A further 1.8% cut in England (and 7.6% in Scotland non-LFA) for exceeding the total arable base area; and
  • A worsening green exchange rate used to convert the subsidies.

After these penalties, the rate of area aid for the 1998 crop falls to £298.83/ha in England, (30% below the full rate), and to £315.47/ha in the Scottish lowlands, (-34%).

Welsh area aid is finalised at £308.98/ha.

Advance payments went out September, leaving just £99.33/ha to come in England and £92.01/ha to come in non-LFA Scotland.

Ministers have warned of further cuts next year, as EU oilseed plantings this autumn appear to have increased again.

“This underlines the importance of completing the Agenda 2000 CAP reforms as soon as possible on the basis of the commissions proposals,” said junior farm minister Lord Donoughue.

Under these proposals, oilseeds would be put on the same area aid as cereals, which would do away with the penalties system enshrined in the 1992 Blair House agreement.

At current exchange rates, this new single area aid would be worth about £294/ha – only a little bit less than growers received this season. Farmers could then plant as much as they like without the risk of penalty.