22 September 1995

Close call for maize growers

ENGLISH arable farmers and maize growers have been saved from any reductions to area payments in 1995, and from penalty set-aside in 1996 – but it was a close call.

Although maize claims this season (including crops grown as "forage area") more than doubled the base area of 33,000ha (82,000 acres), this has been offset by a shortfall in the area of "other crops" entered for area aid. The net effect, according to figures released by MAFF, is an undershoot of just 1655ha (4100 acres). As such, no penalties will apply.

"Maize farmers can now plan for maize to be within the general arable aid scheme next year, and allocate sufficient set-aside," said Veronica Pitts of consultants Andersons. "But they should not rely on getting the full area payment next year. If maize claims return to the level of 1994, then an overshoot would be very likely."

But this could be avoided if a recent Brussels proposal to remove 75% of the voluntary set-aside area from the base area calculations is agreed.

This measure would also help Scottish producers who were recently advised of a 3.8% overshoot in the non-LFAs, leading to a 1.9% cut in aid rates

and an equivalent increase in uncompensated set-aside for 1996.