By Robert Harris

OVERPLANTING penalties on English arable crops, confirmed today, are lower than expected.

Growers will receive slightly better aid payments on combinable crops for 2001 than recent forecasts suggested.

Farmers actually overshot Englands arable base area by 1.03% in 2001. This is down on last years figure of 1.64% and well below the 3% expected.

Area aid payments for most arable crops in England will be trimmed by the same figure.

Final English region figures show that cereals and set-aside payments for 2001 are worth 217.74/ha for each hectare claimed.

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

Farmers will receive a similar increase over forecast for oilseeds (worth 255.05/ha), proteins (250.57/ha) and linseed (261.39/ha).

However, English livestock farmers have been hit by a bigger penalty for maize, where plantings were 2.5 times over the base area. Scalebacks are put at 71.52%, resulting in a payment of 62.66/ha.

As usual, Welsh and Northern Irish farmers will avoid all scalebacks.

But Scottish growers will have to wait until next week to see how much their payments will be reduced, though latest estimates suggest the figure could be as high as 5%.