2 August 2000
English farmers slam hill subsidy plan
by FWi staff
FARMERS leaders in England have condemned proposals to subsidise hill farmers based on the area they farm rather than the number of animals they keep.
Payments to farmers in England will be 13/ha in moorland areas; 18.60/ha in disadvantaged areas; and 34.40/ha in severely disadvantaged areas.
But the National Farmers Union warned that the payments, made under the Hill Farm Allowance (HFA) system, will redistribute support among farmers.
The government has pledged that farmers who lose under the arrangements will have losses restored by 90% in 2001; 80% in 2002 and 50% in 2003.
But NFU president Ben Gill said ministers had failed to make available new funds a decision reflected in the plan to reduce the HFA budget in future years.
Inevitably means that more hill farmers will face very real pressure on incomes which in many cases are already unsustainable, he said.
Mr Gill said a decision by the European Commissions had limited the governments room for manoeuvre on the matter during negotiations in Brussels..
“I am disappointed that the EC did not act on our concern and rejected the historic payment proposal which MAFF put forward on our behalf, he said.
“Despite this background we have worked hard with MAFF to use every possible technical factor to limit the redistributive effects of the HFA.
Mr Gill said MAFF would have to reassess the needs of each farm business and of the wider availability of other payment schemes to hill farmers.
The NFU will hold a series of roadshows to explain the likely impact of the proposed changes to farmers in the hill regions of England, beginning next week.
The proposal are likely to be approved in September. An announcement on the hill support for Welsh hill farmers is expected on Friday 4 August.