26 March 1999

Grazing area threat

FARMERS could lose thousands of £ in support payments and valuable wildlife habitats could be destroyed if gorse and bracken lose their status as deemed grazing areas.

The Country Landowners Association has warned that moves to tighten the rules governing registered forage areas could have a devastating impact on farm incomes and wildlife conservation.

It said the EU appeared to be questioning the long-accepted definition of bracken and gorse as grazing areas. If that happened, farmers would suddenly find they had increased stocking densities and could lose extensification premiums.

A solution for cash-strapped producers could be to grub out the scrub cover to avoid any risk of losing premiums, the CLA warned.

"Removing such scrub vegetation could also result in the loss of wildlife habitats," a spokesman said. The landowners have urged the EU Commission to clarify the position. &#42