This is an archived press release
Monday 5 April 2004
5 April 2004
NATIONAL PARK AUTHORITY'S CONCERN AT FARM PAYMENTS PROPOSALS
The Peak District National Park Authority is urging the Government to rethink proposals for a new national system of farming payments. The Authority fears that the new scheme could cut the income of many Peak District farmers by up to 75%.
The Government has announced its proposals to gradually replace the current payments - which are based on a wide range of production criteria - with a single payment based on a flat rate per hectare. The changes would come in to force on 1 January 2005 as part of the wide-ranging review of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Although no figures can be confirmed until 2005, it is understood that farmers in 'severely disadvantaged areas' (SDAs) could receive just £65-£85 per hectare under the single farm payment scheme, compared to £210-£230 for non-SDA regions.
Around 86% of farms in the National Park fall within SDAs. Particularly hard hit would be upland grassland farmers, mainly in the White Peak and limestone plateau along with other areas including parts of Staffordshire Moorlands and Cheshire.
The Authority estimates that around 1,000 farms could be affected, with a reduction in their grants of up to 75% over the next eight years.
The Authority has been liaising closely with other National Park Authorities, conservation organisations, the NFU and other faming bodies over the proposals, and it is now urging the Government to amend its plans to better reflect the environmental and economic challenges facing these farms.
Chair of the Peak District National Park Authority, Tony Hams, said: "As they stand these proposals could lead to a major decline in income for many Peak District grassland farmers. This would put them at a serious economic disadvantage because businesses in non-SDA regions around the country would receive much bigger payments.
"However, our concern is not only with the economic impact - there could also be a very serious knock-on effect on the Peak District environment. For example, land could be farmed more intensively to boost production or could be ranch-farmed. Either way, wildlife habitats could be lost and drystone walls and other landscape features would inevitably be neglected.
"Farmland in the National Parks is among the most environmentally important and economically marginal in England - crucial points that we are now pressing the Government to take on board before the reforms are finalised."