Dairy farmers seek share of £4m LFA cash
By Allan Wright
SCOTTISH dairy farmers who have been denied hill livestock compensatory allowances in the past are seeking a £4m share of area-based payments of less favoured areas.
They claim the switch from beef and sheep headage payments to area-based subsidy should end the discrimination.
About 70% of Scotlands 2100 dairy farms are designated LFA. Their case was presented, as a written Scottish NFU report, to Ross Finnie, Scotlands minister for rural development, during the DairyScot event at Ingliston, Edinburgh.
"We believe our case is indisputable," said Scottish NFU milk convener Ian Kerr.
"LFA payments recognise permanent natural disadvantage resulting in higher costs. There is no reason why dairy farms should be excluded."
Mr Kerr claimed that EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler, on a recent visit to Edinburgh, said he would have no objection to dairy farmers receiving LFA money.
The union estimates the cost would be about £4m and wants it as new money on top of the £60m allocated to traditional hill farms.
A member state is entitled to amend its rural development plan on an annual basis and that, according to the union, leaves the door open to include dairy farms.
Mr Finnie said he would make no immediate judgement but would take the document away for a full appraisal of the arguments and implications.
He is also considering an aid plea to help two remote Scottish cheese creameries – at Campbeltown and Rothesay – meet new EU waste water regulations by January 2002.
The creameries are owned by the co-op Scottish Milk, which is seeking a grant towards the £2m cost.
"We are told 50% would be the maximum grant allowed under state aid rules," said Scottish Milk chairman John Duncan.
"But that would leave £1m to find from businesses that are only marginally profitable. A levy on the 100 producers concerned may be needed but their future and that of the creamery workers is in the balance." *