9 August 2002

Revamped LFA scheme up for EUapproval

THE final version of Scotlands Less Favoured Area Support Scheme for 2003 onwards has been submitted for EU approval.

Rural development minister, Ross Finnie, says it takes account of views expressed during the recent consultation exercise and introduces a number of improvements on the 2001 and 2002 arrangements.

The result, said Mr Finnie, is that 54% of farmers will gain overall compared with the old Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance scheme, which the LFASS replaced.

NFU Scotland welcomed the changes made to the scheme, believing that they will bring some long-awaited stability to Scottish hill farming. The scheme is expected to receive EU approval in the autumn and will operate in that form until 2006.

As a result of consultation, there will be three area payment rates. "There will be a separate payment category of £44.50/ha (£18/acre) which will apply to the islands of Scotland, recognising the particular transport problems facing businesses there," said Mr Finnie.

The second category, receiving £42.50/ha (£17.20/acre), will extend to peripheral LFA communities in the Western Highlands, the north-east and south-west of Scotland.

"I have also decided to take account of the historic disadvantage recognised by Objective 1 status held by much of the Highlands and Islands. This part of Scotland will, therefore, attract the higher payment rate until the Objective 1 status lapses in 2006," he said.

The rest of Scotlands LFAs will receive the £36.50/ha (£14.80/acre) originally proposed.

A new minimum payment of £350 a farm will also be introduced, so small units will no longer be burdened with form-filling.

As well as introducing four grazing categories, depending on land potential, additional payments will be available for those with cattle in a bid to promote Scottish beef production.

Farms with at least 50% of their livestock as cattle will receive a 70% increase in their payment rate, while those with at least 10% but less than 50% of their livestock in cattle will receive a 35% increase. &#42

in payments.