9 April 2001
No set-aside for deserted grazing

By Alistair Driver

THE Ministry of Agriculture has refused to let British farmers hit by foot-and-mouth disease cut their losses by putting empty fields into set-aside.

The Irish Republic has already agreed to let farmers affected by the disease in County Louth put all their eligible land into set-aside.

But a Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) spokesman in London said their were no immediate plans to allow empty British fields to be entered into the scheme.

British farmers are generally allowed to take up to half their land eligible for arable subsidies out of production, for which they receive 227/ha.

But the National Farmers Union has been pushing MAFF to allow farmers in infected areas to allow more land to be put into the scheme.

NFU chief arable adviser Paul Ibbott pointed out that the ministry had already allowed all eligible land to be set-aside on farms affected by the autumn floods.

Doing the same now would provide much-needed cash-flow for desperate livestock farmers, he told FARMERS WEEKLY.

But a MAFF spokeswoman said the ministry had not applied to the EU for a derogation although she acknowledged that the situation was under review.

The rules were relaxed in flood-hit areas for arable farmers unable to plant crops, whereas foot-and-mouth has affected livestock farmers, she said.

But Mr Ibbott pointed out that a recent change in the set aside rules mean farmers can now put fields in for set-aside that were grass the year before.

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage