28 February 1997

NFU welcomes MAFF review into HLCA scheme

By Tony McDougal

MAFF has instigated a full-scale review of the hill livestock compensatory allowances, the first since the scheme was introduced in the 1970s.

The evaluation is being carried out by the Exeter Universitys department of agricultural economics, and consultants Drew Associates, and will involve 1500 randomly selected HLCA claimants in England.

Martin Turner, Exeter University agricultural economics lecturer, said the main aim of the study would be to see how well HLCAs were maintaining a viable agriculture and rural economy.

Originally set up in 1976 to aid farmers in less favoured areas, the scheme was extended in 1984 into severely and disadvantaged areas.

Full consultation would take place with farm organisations and leading environmental groups prior to the report being delivered to MAFF in August. Publication is expected to take place before the annual November announcement of the HLCA budget.

Chris Peeler, NFU LFA spokesman, welcomed the review, saying it was important that farmers provided as much relevant information so that the study could depict an accurate picture of hill farming.

Mr Peeler said the study would enable MAFF to focus on whether to move away from headage-based payments in favour of area support, as well as monitor over-grazing issues.

A MAFF spokesman said the review wanted to look at ways of improving the HLCA scheme through better targeting of available cash.