28 June 2002

Extra SAP for English flocks

SHEEP producers in England are to get an extra 46p a ewe for this years sheep annual premium claims, after an announcement by DEFRA this week on how it plans to spend the new national envelope.

As part of last years reforms, Brussels provided an extra k1 a ewe (62p) for a national envelope in addition to the k21 a ewe (£13) basic premium and k7 a ewe (£4.34) LFA supplement. It also gave member states flexibility on how to spend it.

For England, the total fund available comes to £5.4m and junior DEFRA minister, Lord Whitty, has agreed that about two-thirds will be paid as a top-up to all producers, worth 46p a ewe.

But about £2m is being channelled into a quota buy-up scheme, in an attempt to reduce stocking rates in areas where over-grazing has damaged the environment.

By tender

"The scheme will operate by tender," he said. "In deciding which offers should be accepted we will take into account both price and the extent of historic over-grazing. The scheme will open for applications in the autumn and we hope that offers will be dealt with before the close of the next quota trading period."

Lord Whitty also indicated that, for 2003, all the national envelope would be used for schemes to encourage extensification and improve quality. And the funds would be boosted to £10m by cutting all sheep producers ewe premiums by k1 a ewe (62p).

The NFU says these decisions will receive a mixed reaction.

"The quota buy-up scheme has the potential to be a real minefield," said livestock adviser, Kevin Pearce. "We have always had reservations, but now we will have to get on with it." For 2003, the NFU will work to ensure that national envelope funds are available to as many sheep farmers as possible. &#42