7 November 1997

HFIlaunches upland register

A CAMPAIGN to highlight the value for money that upland farmers provide to rural communities, over and above the quality livestock they produce, has been launched by the Hill Farming Initiative.

The centrepiece of the initiative will be a register of hill farmers which will be used to draw the publics attention to the plight of upland producers and to put pressure on government to reverse its decision to peg next years hill livestock compensatory allowances at 1996 levels.

Launching the campaign yesterday (Thur), HFI co-ordinator Bobbi Davy said: "Upland producers are now under threat as never before after the government has chosen to ignore the mechanism of the national hill farming review and to freeze HLCA payments at 1996 levels."

The Register of Hill Farms of the Future would record producers vital role in sustaining remote communities. But it would also focus on the work done by farmers to ensure that activities such as bird spotting and hill walking could continue, as well as highlighting their importance in protecting wildlife and historic landscapes, she said.

"We want to show the tremendous value for money hill farmers represent to the wider community beyond the quality livestock they produce."

Hill producers will be asked to describe briefly and anonymously details of their farm business and other potential farm-based income-generating activities.

HFI chief spokesman, Alastair Davy, said the information would be used to lobby against the governments decision not to repeat this years HLCA top-up for suckler cows, which will wipe £60m off 1998 payments. "We are calling on all individuals and organisations who visit and value hill farms to put pressure on the government to retain HLCA payments at 1997 levels.

"Hill farmers are reliant on HLCAs, particularly at a time when all available figures show a 20% drop in net farm income."

Registration forms are available from the HFI on 0171-404 2908 and should be returned before Christmas.