Re-target HLCA to help worst off, says factor

17 October 1997

Re-target HLCA to help worst off, says factor

By Allan Wright

SOME hill farming subsidies should be re-targeted towards farmers in the most seriously disadvantaged areas, according to Jeremy Sainsbury, factor for Forrest Estate in south-west Scotland.

Mr Sainsbury urged the SNFU at its Dumfries and Stewartry meeting to press for a re-targeting of Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance (HLCA) levels to help those farmers working in the most arduous conditions, saying income from his highest farms on the Forrest Estate was being badly affected.

"All the 3000 acres are designated severely disadvantaged. But there is one lowground unit of 600 acres which generates total income of £200,000 and is viable without less favoured area payments including HLCAs. Another farm higher up the hill is twice the size yet total income is just £65,000 including all subsidies.

"True hill farmers are producing about 15kg of lamb from every ewe. The lowground man is getting 35kg/ewe. HLCAs were supposed to iron out that difference but both are receiving the same level of subsidy per ewe."

Mr Sainsbury warned that in the absence of new money, true hill farmers would have no future. "There will be no successors when the current generation retire or sell up and that will have huge consequences for whole rural communities," said Mr Sainsbury.

"In our own case, it is only because we have widely diversified sources of income, from sport to hydro and wind power enterprises, that we continue to employ 17 people. Traditional hill farming could not support anything like that number. It now takes 1000 ewes and 30 suckler cows to justify a man on a true hill farm.

"These same units are penalised when higher lamb prices cut sheep annual premium payments because they do not have the lamb output to balance the equation. They will also have most to fear from modulation because their dependence on subsidies is far greater than on the lower ground," added Mr Sainsbury.

Jeremy Sainsbury – more support for those in more disadvantaged areas.

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