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Rule change could kill hill farming-Farron

June 9, 2009 12:00 AM

Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale and Lib Dem Shadow Defra Secretary, has spoken out against plans to change the way that funds for hill farmers are calculated.

The House of Lords EU Committee has backed European Commission plans to change the criteria for funding 'Less Favoured Areas' which would mean that the socio-economic position of farmers could not be taken into account. This would mean that governments could not use economic hardship or the loss of community as justification for funding through the new Upland Entry Level Scheme which will replace the Hill Farm Allowance next year.

Tim Farron has strongly criticised this move and has submitted a Parliamentary Motion calling on the Defra Secretary Hilary Benn MP to oppose it.

"The Commission's proposed change to the way the LFA status will make not make the system simpler, it will instead be a needlessly bureaucratic obstacle that will leave many hard pressed farmers without essential payments.

"Hill farming is of crucial importance to all of us whether we realise it or not. The maintenance of historic upland landscapes, the preservation of biodiversity, the management of waterways, the production of food and the delivery of a huge range of environmental benefits all depend upon hill farmers.

"Nevertheless, it is incredibly hard to make a living in the uplands - the average income for many hill farmers is less than £10,000 a year. Farmers don't want to be given subsidies, but they do want to receive a fair payment for their hard work.

"It is only right, then, that we take into account socio-economic factors when providing funding for our uplands - if we don't, then we risk losing the next generation of farmers which would have far reaching environmental and economic consequences."