19 October 1999
Hill headage aid for another year

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

HILL Livestock Compensatory Allowances will continue to be paid on a headage basis next year, following a Brussels decision to allow a one-year roll-over of the existing scheme.

Under Agenda 2000 the original intention was to make the payments – which are an essential part of farm incomes in the countrys upland areas – on a flat-rate area basis.

But problems devising a scheme which will be fair to all sheep and cattle farmers, while meeting the requirements of commission policymakers, has led to the one-year extension.

“The biggest problem is the redistribution of support,” says NFU livestock adviser Kevin Pearce. “We could have had a situation where a livestock farm in the Yorkshire Dales was getting the same support per acre as a grouse moor in Scotland.”

A flat-rate area payment takes no account of the number of animals kept, the labour employed or the type of farming practised, he says.

MAFF still has to consult the industry on the details of a new scheme. “There just is not the time to develop, consult and implement it before payments go out next spring.”

The decision to roll over the existing scheme – under which producers receive about £73 a cow and £8.88 a ewe in the severely disadvantaged areas (SDAs) – will remove much of the uncertainty facing upland producers, and has been welcomed by the farming unions.