Sustainability targets at risk

By Andrew Watts

DEFRA RISKS missing its sustainability targets for England”s upland areas unless it allocates 100m a year to Severely Disadvantaged Areas, the National Beef Association has warned.

Under the Hill Farm Allowance scheme farmers in England”s SDAs receive 27.5m a year, but this system is due to end in Dec 2006.

 The NBA pointed out that farming organisations had failed to agree a two-region system with a Moorland line boundary during single farm payment negotiations last year.

And that, the NBA said, had left SDAs with a lower rate that threatened the future of cattle production in the regions.

 “We have told DEFRA its sustainability targets for the uplands have no chance of being hit unless more realistic funding is made available,” said Christopher Thomas-Everard, NBA”s SDA committee chairman.

“Without more help sheep will be preferred to suckler cows and there will be a rapid deterioration in the range of plants, insects, birds and mammals.

“There would also be a reduction in the farming workforce, with its own damage to schools, post offices and other rural services,” he added.

The call for increased funding was echoed by Will Cockbain, the NFU”s Less Favoured Areas spokesman. Mr Cockbain said the NFU was working on a framework that it hoped would replace the scheme, but it had yet to arrive at a suitable figure.

 “We have been working to make sure the correct framework is in place that will allow a significant increase in the funding after the end of the Hill Farm Allowance scheme,” he said.