26 June 1998
CAP reforms put grass lets under threat
CURRENT plans to reform the Common Agricultural Policy could have a marked downward effect on demand and prices for summer grass lets.
A proposal in Agenda 2000 is that eligible land for extensification subsidy – currently £29 a suckler cow – must be used by the farmer for a full year. The forage area of a holding would be defined as that area used throughout a full calendar year for the rearing of cattle, sheep, or goats.
Many farmers have used summer grass lets to “buy” extra acres for extensification purposes.
UK farming unions are aware of the threat. “It is quite unclear how actual numbers of animals stocked on a livestock farm during the calendar year will be determined. It is vital that sensible implementing rules are decided,” said NFU policy director Ian Gardiner.
“There should be no question of changing the definition of forage area to exclude short-term grass lets. These lets are an integral part of livestock farming over large parts of the UK and the land involved is properly counted towards forage area when environmental protection against overgrazing is being considered,” he said.
The union was concerned that what had been accepted as the existing stocking density limit of 1.4 livestock units/ha, based on claimed animals, would alter dramatically if the rules changed to actual animals kept on the holding for a full year.
“That would not adequately reflect what may be appropriate on both good husbandry and environmental grounds and, if the commission is intent on retaining this provision, there may be merit in establishing a second, less onerous stocking density at a lower rate of extensification premium,” said Mr Gardiner.
Scottish NFU economist Scott Walker said that governments had been concentrating on the general thrust of Agenda 2000 proposals and were only now getting down to going through them line by line.
“There is a great deal of ambiguity in some of the proposals, including the one on extensification stocking limits and qualifying forage area. But we are hopeful that these problems can be resolved in discussion with Government now that detailed consideration is beginning to be given to the proposals,” he said.
For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 26 June-2 July, 1998