23 February 1996

Five groups to think small

FIVE farming organisations have agreed to co-operate to formulate a common policy for the future of small and medium farms.

At a meeting in London on Tuesday the Family Farmers Association, Scottish Crofters Union, Farmers Union of Wales, Hill Farming Initiative, and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association agreed that the first step was to commission a study on small farms.

A representative from Irelands United Farmers Association was due to attend the meeting but failed to arrive.

Fraser MacLeod, director of the Scottish Crofters Union, said the meeting had agreed that the current CAP failed to achieve its aims of maintaining farm incomes. The social aspects of CAP had also failed. "I dont think that directing 80% of the CAP budget at 20% of producers achieves anything," he said.

Accepting that there was an imbalance and an "extremely uneven playing field" the group agreed that there was a need for change.

But any proposals had to be based on a definitive study of the contribution made by small and medium farms to local communities and their economies, to the environment and to rural employment.

"We need to have this research because otherwise everything we tried to do or say would just be waffle based on nothing more than speculation," said John Armitage, FFA chairman.