News that the Hill Farm Allowances is to be extended for a further three years has been described as “the best possible outcome,” by North-East NFU livestock board chairman, Malcolm Corbett.

However, he stressed that, if environmental targets are to be achieved then hill farm support must increase in the longer term.

There were fears that the HFA budget would be significantly reduced, so the announcement that payments would continue at a similar level came as a great relief to the region’s hill producers, according to Mr Corbett, who runs a 202ha (500 acres) hill farm in Northumberland.

“Some smaller holdings just don’t have the economies of scale to survive without the HFA, and unlike lowland farms, they can’t plough out grass and try another crop,” says Mr Corbett.

‘Vital Role’

“All hill farms play a vital role in maintaining the environment – no upland conservation scheme can work without them. I think the authorities need to recognise this fact, and try and look at the bigger picture when they are setting their budgets.”

He said that as the Single Farm Payment fell in value, the contribution of the HFA will be even more important. “At that point, we should be in a better position to negotiate a regime that offers a higher level of support. That way, we can continue to maintain the wildlife and the landscape for the public to enjoy,” he said.

HFA INTENTION TO CLAIM BY 19 JANUARY
Claimants of the HFA in 2006 will be receiving a copy of the HFA 2007 explanatory booklet, which sets out eligibility rules for next year’s payment. The booklet contains a declaration letter, which should be completed and returned to the Rural Payments Agency by 19 January, 2007.

Declarations received after the deadline date, but before 13 February, 2007 will be subject to a 1% per working day penalty. Any declaration received after 13 February will be rejected. Anyone wishing to claim HFA in 2007 but has not received the explanatory booklet by the end of December should telephone the RPA on 0845 603 7777, or access the information from the RPA website, www.rpa.gov.uk

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