19 January 1996

HLCA move cheer

SHEEP producers have welcomed MAFFs decision not to cut the maximum number of sheep on which Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowances can be paid.

A statutory instrument had been laid in late October paving the way for the stocking limit to be cut from 9 ewes/ha to 6 ewes/ha in the Disadvantaged Areas, which would have reduced payments for many upland farmers. This was depsite government assurances that hill farmers would not be made worse off.

But regulations laid before parliament last week confirm the limit will remain at nine ewes. "We welcome the move not to cut the maximum number as was originally proposed, but it shows the fragility of government support to one of the most vulnerable areas of UK farming," said Shropshire NFUs LFA chairman, David Littlehales.

Under the HLCA legislation, there are a number of thresholds that put an upper limit on the level of payment:

&#8226 A monetary limit of £81.13/ha (£32.83/acre) in the Severely Disadvantaged Areas and £60.85/ha (£24.63/acre) in the Disadvantaged Areas.

&#8226 A UK stocking limit of 6 ewes/ha in the SDAs and 9 ewes/ha in the DAs.

&#8226 An EU stocking limit of 1.4 cows/ha and 9.3 ewes/ha in both SDAs and DAs.

But there are also certain minumum payments set by Brussels, and for this reason MAFF has had to raise the rate of HLCA for sheep in the DAs from £2.44/head to £2.65/head.

The NFU is quick to point out that, unlike most other Member States, the rates in the UK are close to the minimum in all categories.