12 November 1999
Outrage at plan to replace HLCA
By Farmers Weekly staff
FARMING organisations have expressed horror at new proposals from the government for a replacement for the Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance scheme.
After months of waiting, the government has finally outlined its plans for England. It has issued a consultation paper and set a deadline for responses by 3 December.
In common with the Welsh consultation, which began last week and ends on 22 November, it proposes payments from 2001 should be made up of three elements.
Payments would be based partly on a flat-rate area payment and partly on a payment reflecting the productive capacity of an individuals land.
The balance between the two payments would shift towards the area payment over a three-year phase-in period, although the percentage change differs betwen the two countries.
And the basic payment would be increased by 10 or 20% in England for farmers who complied with environmental conditions.
NFU president Ben Gill said he was shocked at the suggestion that payments in 2001 should based on the 1996 budget – £60 million less than is currently spent in the hills.
The union is now seeking urgent clarification from MAFF on a number of points, including whether the figures used in MAFFs case study are actually correct, so it can work out exactly how the proposals will affect individual farmers.
In their response to the consultation, the Welsh farming unions will demand large-scale changes to the National Assemblys proposed area based HLCA scheme.
The NFU Cymru-Wales is so worried about the implications and the short consultation period, that it has ordered branches to put all other work to one side for a fortnight.
Malcolm Thomas, the unions Welsh director, said that, as the “stupid” 22 November deadline could not be changed, all the stops must be pulled out to have well reasoned arguments for modification ready on time.
“Some 82% of the farmed area of Wales is less favoured so the consequences of getting things wrong would be very far reaching,” said Mr Thomas.
“Early reactions from members indicate that they are very unhappy with many of the proposals as they stand. Getting the right system now is crucial as the EU might in future apply area payments to other measures like Sheep Annual Premium and Beef Special Premium.”
Producers were totally opposed to the emphasis on the environment, and the limited number of criteria for qualifying for the environmental payments.