13 October 2000

EUbacks Scots hill farm scheme

SCOTLANDS future hill farming support scheme seems to have won approval in Brussels at last.

After many delays, during what Scottish Executive officials described as "a very difficult series of negotiations" with the EU Commission, a redrafted scheme has been submitted to Brussels. The Executive believes it will be presented to the Star Committee for formal approval at its next meeting on Oct 26.

To reach this stage, a number of fundamental changes have been made to the original proposals. These include reducing from 12 to six the land classifications for future payment, and the commitment to introduce some additional environmental payments from the start of the scheme in Jan 2001 rather than two years later as the Executive originally planned.

Scottish farm minister Ross Finnie has also announced an additional £5m for the scheme which will be used to cover the much higher area payments that are now anticipated.

Under the proposal, northern upland farms, currently classified as Highlands and Islands A and B, will receive £45/ha for improved pasture and £9/ha for rough grazings. The rate for southern upland farms (classified D and E in the non-Highlands and Island area) will be £39.40/ha for improved land and £7.90/ha for rough grazing.

Remaining land will be classed as moorland, attracting payments of £30.40/ha and £6.10/ha for the two pasture classifications.

Additional environmental payments worth £2.50/ha will be available for extensive farms running both cattle and sheep, with an additional top-up of £3/ha for moorland farms.

The safety net will be retained, guaranteeing hill farmers 90% of the payments they received this year in 2001, and 80% of that in 2002.