23 October 1998

Welsh face cuts in extensification aid

By Robert Davies

MANY Welsh farmers could lose their cattle extensification payments because of cuts in forage area allocations relating to common grazings.

The reduction changes the stocking rates of graziers who do not use all their rights. This year, for the first time, IACS forms issued by the Welsh Office, unlike those used in England, asked for details about both registered rights and use in 1998.

Those who admitted not grazing their full entitlement of cattle and sheep are being penalised. The actual reduction varies according to a formula based on the area of the common and the number of registered rights.

The case of Paul Matthews of Aberhyddnant, Crai, Brecon, is typical. Though his family partnership has rights to put 927 ewes on the Great Forest of Brecon, he reported grazing only 500. Now the forage area allocated to common grazings has been cut by nearly 50%, effectively changing the stocking rate from 1.08 livestock units/ha to 1.34 which is perilously close to the 1.4lu/ha limit to claim extensification payments.

Mr Matthews, chairman of both the Farmers Union of Waless Brecon and Radnor branch and the national livestock committee, has demanded that the full allocation of 927 units be reinstated.

"We take great offence that we are to suffer a reduction in our forage area for responding to calls from the government and environmental bodies to reduce our stocking levels," he said in a letter to the Welsh Office. "If you wish to see mass overstocking of our hills then continue with this short sighted policy."

Arwyn Owen, the FUWs commodity officer, said it was too soon to estimate how many truthful farmers had been penalised, but the total could be high. They were asking whether the government had a sinister hidden agenda aimed at cutting support payments. &#42