DEFRA officials confirm farmers will be fully consulted on HFA replacement
At the latest meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hill Farming, Tim Farron, Chair of the Group and Lib Dem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale officials from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed that farmers will be widely consulted on the replacement scheme to the Hill Farm Allowance.
The officials in attendance confirmed that the aim was to make the last payment through the old HFA system in 2009 and have a successor scheme in place for 2010. Consultation on the scheme will continue into mid-2008 at which point EC approval will be sought.
Marian Jenner, a senior civil servant with responsibility for hill farming said:
"Engaging stakeholders in this case is clearly crucial, we are fully committed to this form of consultation. For example, we will be seeking a group of farmers to talk to directly."
Tim Farron, chair of the APPG on Hill Farming said:
"Obviously the news that DEFRA will be consulting widely with industry stakeholders is welcome, and something that I have been calling for on behalf of the Group for some time."
At the meeting the Group also discussed the issue of commons land entitlements, where the DEFRA representatives appeared to confirm that the idea behind using a 1965 register to decide the entitlements was driven from a Ministerial level. It was also confirmed that DEFRA and the Rural Payments Agency are reviewing the policy with legal teams.
Mr Farron said:
"It remains a concern that the decision to use the Commons Registration Act of 1965 seems to have been taken at a Ministerial level. I hope that the policy will be scrapped at the earliest opportunity to minimise the inconvenience suffered by farmers."