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Marginal Land

Volume 114: debated on Tuesday 7 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many farmers on Anglesey have applied for reconsideration of marginal land status; how many decisions have now been made; how many decisions have allowed an increase in marginal land; on what grounds applications have been refused; and if he will make a statement.

The position on representations and decisions concerning farmers on Anglesey is as follows:

Number of representations against exclusion from the less favoured area314
Number of decisions made and conveyed to the farmer119
Number of representations accepted for inclusion in United Kingdom case to European Commission provided that economic and demographic tests are satisfactory:10
Number of representations rejected on:
(a) non contiguity grounds46
(b) land quality grounds48
(c) lack of defensible boundary grounds15

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will set out the various extra grants and advantages available to farmers who have marginal land; and how many of these involve funding by (a) his Department and (b) the European Commission.

Hill livestock compensatory allowances (HLCAs) are payable to specialist beef and sheep farmers within the less favoured area. LFA sheep farmers eligible for the sheep annual premium (SAP) also benefit from advance part-payments of that premium. The European Commission funds approximately 25 per cent. of HLCA expenditure and 100 per cent. of SAP expenditure.LFA farmers are eligible for higher rates of grant on certain capital investments. Such grants have been provided under the agriculture and horticulture grant scheme and two European schemes (the farm and horticulture development scheme and the agriculture and horticulture development scheme). The European schemes attract 25 per cent. funding from the European Commission. The agriculture improvement scheme has now replaced the earlier schemes. With some exceptions, it also offers higher rates of grant in the LFA. LFA farmers are also able to benefit from grant assistance towards the provision and development of on-farm tourism and craft facilities. The European element of this scheme is funded by the European Commission at the rate of 25 per cent., except for the young farmer supplement where the rate is 50 per cent.The agriculture and horticultural co-operation scheme 1985 offers forage co-operatives in the LFA grant of 25 per cent. towards the cost of forage machinery and 15 per cent. towards the cost of tractors. This scheme is totally funded by the United Kingdom Government.Dairy farmers in the LFA receive a concession on the co-responsibility levy on milk. In 1986, non-LFA producers paid 2 per cent. of the target price, 0·364p per litre, whilst LFA producers paid 1·5 per cent. of the target price, 0·273p per litre, on the first 60,000 kg of milk.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales by whom the requirements as to boundaries of marginal land have been laid down; what representations he has made to the European Commission about such boundaries; whether grants presently available to farmers are payable on the basis of (a) farm boundaries or (b) any other features of delineation; and if he will make a statement.

For land to be granted less favoured area status it must meet physical, economic and demographic criteria laid down by the European Commission. Each member state has discretion to set its own requirements in the determination of the boundary of land meeting these criteria. In the United Kingdom Ministers have decided that to facilitate administration, the LFA boundary shall normally be defined by hard natural or man-made physical features in the landscape. Thus the LFA boundary may encompass whole farms or part farms. In the latter case, the extra financial assistance associated with LFA status is payable on that part of the farm falling within the boundary.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if all farms in respect of which applications have been made for redesignation of marginal land have been or will be visited by his officials.

Following the enlargement of the less favoured area in 1984, it was announced that farmers could make representations against exclusion but only with regard to land immediately adjacent to the existing LFA boundary or pockets of non-adjacent land extending to at least 1,200 hectares in size. All land subject to representations and falling within either category has been or will be inspected by my officials.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales by what amount marginal land may be increased in Wales, as a percentage of the total, under European Community directives; if he will identify the European Community directives; what representations he has made to the European Commission about any increase in this percentage; what are the financial implications for his Department; and if he will make a statement.

There are no restrictions under EC directives concerning a limit by which the LFA in Wales may he extended, and, consequently, no representations to the European Commission on this subject have been necessary. The financial implications of any extension to the LFA cannot be assessed until the current representations exercise is completed.