Conservationists back call to reform hill payments

Conservationists have welcomed a call by peers for rapid reform of hill farming payments.

The RSPB said a report by the House of Lords EU Committee on Environment and Agriculture echoed its own concerns.

The committee had called for swift adoption of reforms to the European Union’s Less Favoured Areas (LFA) scheme.

RSPB land use experts have backed the call and are sending a message to the European Commission that the system needs an urgent overhaul.

Farmers most in need were also the ones delivering the most wildlife benefit, said Mandy Gloyer, the RSPB’s head of land use policy for Scotland.

“The LFA payment system simply doesn’t work properly and it needs fixing,” she warned.

“The current system doesn’t reward those farmers who deserve it the most, and whose farming is best for our landscapes and wildlife.”

Ms Gloyer said she hoped the European Commission would listen to calls to ensure support was properly targeted in future.

“Only with decent farm level targeting of funding can payments reach the right people in the right places,” she said.

Scottish crofters often struggled to make ends meet, but provided precious habitats for threatened species such as the corncrake, the chough and the great yellow bumblebee.