Unions slam move to alter subsidies

5 November 1999

Unions slam move to alter subsidies

PLANNED changes to the way subsidies are paid to hill farmers go too far, say Welsh farming unions, which claim proposals focus too much on the environment and too little on agriculture.

A new consultation document aims to steer a middle course between the views of farmers and environmentalists. It proposes that future payments should comprise three elements. Payment would be calculated to reflect the productive capacity of the farm, together with a flat rate area payment and additional money for farmers who comply with environmental conditions.

Assembly agriculture secretary Christine Gwyther said the new proposals recognised the unique contribution farmers had made to shaping the uplands and to sustaining the rural economy. But farmers leaders said the new consultation document went too far and they were dismayed by the emphasis on the environment rather than farming.

Arwyn Owen, deputy policy director for the Farmers Union of Wales, voiced concern that the whole scheme could eventually be based on the environment. Hill Livestock Compensatory Allow-ances should have stayed as socio-economic payments with some environmental enhancement, he said.

Hugh Richards, president of the NFU Cymru-Wales, said the proposals would be studied closely and grass root members would be consulted. The livelihood of upland farmers depended on maintaining the current level of support, any cut could sound the death knell for many producers.

"It is high time the National Assembly realised that environmental gain and improvement can only be achieved by a viable farming industry," said Mr Richards.

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