30 June 1995

Strang reveals Labour thinking on subsidy cap

A LABOUR government would consider capping subsidy payments and introducing payments based on labour units, said shadow farm minister Gavin Strang.

Speaking at the show, he said it was impossible to justify some payments, often more than £300,000, made to individual farmers. "During the Labour government of 1964-70 we introduced farm amalgamation grants. Now our thinking has changed completely and we want as many farmers and farm workers as possible in rural areas," said Dr Strang.

"We will be driven by the tax-paying public to look at capping subsidies and I think the idea of linking them to labour units is a good one," he told a TSB Bank conference at the show.

He got strong support from Brian Pack, chief executive of the ANM group of companies. He said agricultural policy had not paid nearly enough attention to farm workers.

"Instead of measuring farm income, government agencies should be looking at supporting a farmer and three workers on a unit," said Mr Pack.

"The way things are structured at the moment, farmers are being driven into shedding labour. Support is wrongly routed and workers are leaving the land at an alarming rate. I am very worried about the loss of people and skills for the future," he said.

Former Highland Cattle Society chairman Angus McKay, Aberfeldy, also favoured linking subsidies to labour units. "Present support arrangements have done nothing to keep people in the hills and uplands," he said.

But former Scottish NFU president John Cameron, who is Europes biggest sheep farmer with several hill units in Perthshire and an arable farm in Fife, said he was not embarrassed about taking every penny Brussels offered.

Without subsidies there would be no farming and no farm workers in the hills, he warned. The present system maintained rural populations, he insisted. &#42