11 September 1998

Threat of hill farm clearance

PRESSURE on the government from environmental groups to force farmers to reduce the numbers of animals grazing hills and high uplands could also lead to a clearance of farmers in those areas, warn the National Beef and Sheep Associations.

Both associations, which between them claim to represent more than 30,000 livestock farmers, maintain that if the 1.4 livestock units a hectare benchmark, being used in the support proposals under Agenda 2000, is adopted then it will accelerate de-stocking in areas where families are already struggling to survive financially.

"As stock numbers retreat, more of the managed land in the easily accessible areas on the fringe of substantial moor and mountain wilderness that lies at the core of Britains countryside will fall into dereliction," the associations say.

John Thorley, NSA chief executive, adds that more environmental lobby groups are adopting increasingly extreme positions. "But they seem to make no connection between the de-population of farm animals and the de-population of farmers. We are worried that if they succeed in persuading the government to play environmental games by abolishing premiums on breeding animals and strait-jacketing Hill and Livestock Compensatory Allowances with onerous environmental cross-compliance, then farming families… will soon have to walk away from stock farming in droves."