22 October 1999

Change to upland payments delayed

HILL Livestock Compensatory Allowances will continue to be paid on a headage basis next year, following a Brussels decision to allow a one-year roll-over of the existing scheme.

Under Agenda 2000 the original intention was to make the payments, which form an essential part of farm incomes in upland areas, on an area basis from next January.

But difficulties in devising a scheme which will be fair to all sheep and cattle producers, while meeting the requirements of commission policy makers, has led to the one-year extension.

"The biggest problem is the redistribution of support," says NFU livestock adviser Kevin Pearce. "We could have had a situation where a livestock farm in the Yorkshire Dales was getting the same support per acre as a grouse moor in Scotland." A flat rate area payment does not take account of the number of animals kept, the labour employed or the type of farming practised.

MAFF still has to consult with industry on the details of a new scheme. "There just is not the time to develop, consult and implement it before payments go out next spring."

The decision to roll over the existing scheme – under which producers received £73.39 a cow and £8.88 a hardy ewe in the severely disadvantaged areas (SDAs), and £36.69 a cow and £4.09 a ewe in the disadvantaged areas (DAs) – will remove much of the uncertainty facing upland producers. It has been welcomed by the farming unions.

New claim forms will be sent to beef producers shortly. Previously, HLCAs have been combined with suckler cow premium applications, which go out in July. But this year SCP forms went out on their own, in anticipation of a new area-based scheme for HLCAs in the autumn.

Total cost of the scheme, which is funded 75% by the treasury and 25% by Brussels, comes to £184m, including the £60m "top-up" announced as part of MAFFs emergency aid package last month. &#42