28 July 2000
MAFF proposals to hit hill farmers
by Philip Clarke
HILL farmers are likely to suffer a significant loss of support under new proposals from the Ministry of Agriculture for an area-based subsidy system.
The European Commission last week rejected the National Farmers Unions preferred system which would have based payments on historic receipts.
Now, MAFF has come up with a more Brussels-friendly package.
This involves paying aid according to land type, with four different categories Severely Disadvantaged Areas, Disadvantaged Areas, Moorland and Commons.
The NFU says redistributing support will jeopardise the livelihoods of large numbers of family farms with higher stocking rates
So the new scheme would introduce “tapering”, paying aid in full on the first 350ha (865 acres), at half rate for the next 350ha, and nothing above 700ha.
A MAFF source, who asked not to be named, said: This will ensure a lesser redistribution effect than if we just applied a single rate of aid.
The source said a safety net would target producers who lose out following the move to area aids, but would be phased out over three years.
He added: “After that, we aim to introduce a more sophisticated land classification system with more categories, to target funds better.”
The MAFF source said that the total budget of 157m for 2001, would be reduced over time as funds are switched to other rural development measures.
The safety net would not be additional money either, he added, but would be drawn from the 50m emergency aid already included in the 157m.
This would also shrink in 2002 and 2003 as the recent government spending review came into effect, the source said.
The new Hill Farm Allowance package will be submitted to Brussels “within days”, said the source. “We have high expectations it will be accepted this time.”
The NFU said it was still concerned about the potential redistribution of aid but could not comment because it had not seen the details of the revised package.