14 April 1999
Keep hill farmers, says Euro-politician

By FWi staff

GOVERNMENT policies which forced British hill farmers to leave the land would have grave consequences for the environment, a European politician has warned.

Policies which resulted in farmers abandoning hill farms risk damaging the uplands, said Andrä Rupprechter, deputy director-general of the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture.

“We have to induce a sufficiently high number of farmers to carry on,” Mr Rupprechter told delegates to an ADAS-organised conference in Coventry today (Wednesday).

“There is no other way to maintain the environment and a landscape shaped over thousands of years.”

Mr Rupprechters comments come a week after the British government announced a major consultation exercise on the future of farming in the uplands.

Radical proposals are likely to mean the wholesale restructuring of hill farming and a massive reduction in the number of hill livestock.

The proposals, which would see the biggest reform in hill-farming for 50 years, would abolish subsidies on livestock numbers in favour of payments on the area farmed.

Mr Rupprechter said the Common Agricultural Policy should ensure that agriculture covers as much of Europe as possible while being as gentle on the environment as possible.

“It cannot be the aim of European agriculture to concentrate production on the favoured areas … only to reduce farmers in less favoured areas to landscape gardeners,” he said.