Government slashes £60m from hill farm aid
By Boyd Champness
THE National Farmers Union has conceded that the Government will slash £60 million from compensation paid to hill farmers in England and Wales this year – cutting the total package to £106m.
NFU president Sir David Naish met farm minister Dr Jack Cunningham today to discuss a number of issues, including future funding for the Hill and Livestock Compensatory Allowance (HLCA) package for farmers in Less Favoured Areas (LFAs).
Sir David was told that the Government would be removing the additional £60m – made available by the Tory government last year because of the BSE crisis – because of budgetary constraints.
Sir David said the NFU was aware the £60m was a “one-off” payment designed to alleviate the heartache cause by the BSE crisis last year, but said he was still “disappointed” by the Governments decision, coning before the handing-down of a review of hill-farming expected in late October.
However, Sir David said the minister assured him that he would be committed to addressing the problems associated with hill farming once the review was handed down.
“The minister said he wouldnt be making a final decision on hill funding until the review is handed down, and weve had the opportunity to lobby,” Sir David said.
The review will reveal, among other things, the average income of hill farmers, which is expected to be even lower than last years dismal finding.
The 1995-96 farm business survey – conducted by UK universities on behalf of the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – showed that 42% of cattle and sheep farms in Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) in England had net farm incomes of less than £10,000 in that year.
Sir David said if the review did in fact show that the average incomes of hill farmers in England and Wales had fallen below last years levels, then the NFU would have a very good case to request additional funding.
“If farm incomes are shown to be down because of that review, we will then go back to the minister and say, `Look, their is a genuine problem in the hills,” he said.