Disease hits grass let lessees

By FWi staff

A SHORTAGE of grass lets due to foot-and-mouth is creating problems for farmers who depend on leasing extra forage hectares to make up subsidy claims.

To be included in a units eligible forage area, rented land needs to be available from 1 April for seven months. But, as the deadline nears, almost no grass keep is available.

In foot-and-mouth-free areas, many landowners who normally let all or part of their farms are reluctant to take any risks. And disease control measures are preventing those in infected areas from offering short-term grass lets.

“The whole thing is a mess,” says Dave Greenow of Tars Mill Farm, Dinedor, Hereford.

“We rely on taking about 30 acres of extra grass each year, and are stocked accordingly. But the owner does not want the risk of having a funeral pyre on her land. We have done everything we can to find an alternative site, but failed.”

To stay within EU stocking limits his farm must not carry more than 10 cows and 80 sheep unless extra land is rented. But he has quota for 20 cows and 139 sheep.

To retain quota he must claim subsidy on 90% of cows and 70% of ewes, or lease out the extra units.

The quota market was flat before the outbreak and, even if leasing windows were open, he would be unlikely to find anyone who wanted to take the units at any price.

Arwyn Owen, the Farmers Union of Waless policy director, says many farmers are worried that the epidemic is distorting EU support payments.

“We met the farm commissioner last week and had a sympathetic response on the whole force majeure issue. But we are still in the dark about what flexibility will be shown.”

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