9 November 2001

Lower overshoot adds extra aid for English growers

By Robert Harris

OVER-PLANTING penalties on English arable crops are lower than expected, DEFRA has confirmed. But they are predicted to rise in Scotland.

Growers in England will, therefore, receive slightly bigger area aid cheques for their 2001 combinable crops than recent forecasts suggested. These will start arriving on doormats on Nov 16.

Analysis show excess plantings were down on last years 1.64% and well below the 3% expected.

Farmers actually overshot Englands arable base area by just 1.03% in 2001, according to DEFRAs analysis of IACS returns.

Area aid payments for most arable crops in England will be trimmed by the same figure. This means cereals and set-aside payments for 2001 are worth £217.73 for each hectare claimed (£88.15/acre).

That is just over £4/ha higher than farm business consultant Andersons most recent forecast (and £4/ha better than last year).

"All the relaxation in the rules due to foot-and-mouth and wet weather meant it was much easier to put unused fields into set-aside this year," said the firms Francis Mordaunt. "We thought this might have pushed up total IACS claims, and, therefore, scalebacks. But it did not happen in England."

Farmers will receive a similar increase over forecast for oilseeds (worth £255.04/ha), proteins (£250.57/ha) and linseed (£261.39/ha).

These figures allow for modulation of 2.5%, recently introduced by government to help fund a range of agri-environment schemes.

But English livestock farmers have been hit by a bigger overplanting penalty on the separate maize area compared with last year. It was exceeded by almost 2.5 times, producing a scaleback of 71.52%, compared with 65% in 2000, giving a payment of £62.65/ha.

As usual, Welsh and Northern Irish farmers will avoid all scalebacks, so non-LFA producers will receive just over £193/ha and £195/ha, respectively, for cereals and set-aside.

The Scottish Executive had not released figures as FW went to press. But latest NFU Scotland estimates suggest an arable overshoot of about 5%, more than twice last years level.

If confirmed, non-LFA producers would receive about £201/ha for cereals and set-aside, about £5/ha less than expected (and about £4.50/ha less than last year).

A union official suspected one reason for the overshoot increasing was due to foot-and-mouth disease. "Many farmers in the south-west of Scotland who had animals culled turned land over to spring cereals this year."

Growers of combinable crops in all areas will also receive a further top up from transitional agrimoney compensation this autumn, worth about £5-£10/ha depending on the crop.

This was claimed to help offset the effects of the strong £ on aid payments during 1999, and is based on IACS claims made during that year. &#42