July 8, 2008
Status Quo is the Best Option for Us ; NFU Cymru Union View
By LEIGH ROBER
MAINTAIN the status quo - that's what NFU Cymru told the European Commissionto dow hen it determines Less Favoured Area boundaries in Wales in the future.Four fifths of the land in Wales is regardedas Less Favoured, a designation that dates from1975.
In our response to the European Commission's consultation on the review of the LFA scheme, we have stated that while the drawing of the LFA boundaries is in itself not significant, clearly the demarcation is hugely important in terms of defining where additional resources should be targeted to mitigate the permanent handicaps farmers in these areas have to contend with.
Hill and upland farming continues to deliver positively in terms of economic, environmental, social and cultural objectives - all of which are compatible and figure highly on the EC's agenda.
LFA support is a measure currently available under the Welsh Rural Development Programme and is designed to compensate farmers for the additional costs and forgone income of farming in areas with permanent handicaps.
The EC consultation is the result of a critical report published by the European Court of Auditors back in 2003 which concluded there needed to be more transparency and objectivity in the way that LFAareas are defined. The consultation sets out four different options for determining LFA boundaries in the future and after consulting ourmembers we have chosen optionone-the status quo-as best placed to deliver the objectives of the review for Wales.
While we can appreciate the need for objective criteria and for transparency throughout the EU in terms of LFA designation, we are confident in the integrity of the current designation in Wales and believe that it will withstand robust and detailed scrutiny by the EC.
We are however, opposed to the exclusion of socioeconomic criteria, which, in our view, will assist in mitigating the risk of land abandonment in these areas. Peripherality and remoteness from markets, low service provision etc are real issues in these areas and unless addressed have the potential to lead to the contraction of farming and land management in the LFA.
Farming these areas will in the future become increasingly important strategically.
Although it is not the role of axis two measures under pillar two to fulfil any food production role, the contribution that the LFAs make in production terms should not be overlooked.
Dai Davies is president of NFU Cymru and a Carmarthenshire dairy farmer
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