20 December 1996

FWPS changes disappointing

MOVES by government to increase payment rates and provide greater flexibility for the farm woodland premium scheme do not go far enough say landowners and timber organisations.

Changes to help landowners include a decision to allow woodland to be planted on bracken land, the abolition of the ruling limiting applications to 50% of the farm, albeit with an upper limit of 200ha (494 acres), and a move to allow previous successful applicants to reapply under the revised scheme from Apr 1997.

The government has also proposed a single application procedure, enabling landowners to apply for both the FWPS and the Forestry Commissions woodland grant scheme.

Peter Wilson, Timber Growers Association chief executive, said that while government had made a good effort at removing some of the obstacles within the FWPS, the increase in grants had been disappointing.

Landowners are to receive £300/ha (£122/acre) for woodland planted on land eligible for arable area payments from Apr 1, compared with the current £250/ha (£101/acre). In disadvantaged areas (DA) the new rate is £230/ha (£93/acre).

Grants for cropped/improved grassland have risen by £10 to £260/ha (£105/acre) and £200/ha (£81/acre) in DAs. "It is a little move in the right direction, but will not fundamentally shift the economic situation due to the higher arable area payments," said Mr Wilson.

And Ewen Cameron, CLA president, argued that the payment rises were small compared with the recent profitability of agriculture. "We welcome the increased flexibility, but those landowners wanting to plant trees are competing against the current CAP, and the results hardly get you out of the starting lane." &#42