26 November 1999

Hill men cant afford HLCA change

HILL farmers cannot afford to have funding cut and new "arbitrary" stocking density limits put in place as changes are made to the hill farming support scheme, the government will be told by the NFU in its response to the consultation paper on the subject.

The union is concerned that changes to the Hill Livestock Compensation Allowance support scheme could threaten the livelihood of hill farmers at this time of "appallingly low incomes and livestock prices". It says the government is on course to cut support for hill farmers by at least £89m between 2001 and 2006 as a result of a £14.8m cut in annual support after next year.

"There can be no question of reducing support if the new scheme is to be effective in maintaining the farming activities in our hill and upland areas," said the NFU Less Favoured Area chairman Peter Allen, who led a delegation in Brussels on Monday, to discuss proposed changes with EU Commission officials .

The NFU is also concerned about the effect of proposed changes to stocking density calculations as they currently exist under the HLCA scheme. NFU president Ben Gill said stocking rates should not be determined by arbitrary limits. "The only justification is to avoid clear environmental damage," he said.