§ Sir Peter Mills
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures the Government have taken since 1979 to support farming in marginal areas.
§ Mr. Jopling
[pursuant to his reply, 8 May 1987, c. 565]: The Government have offered substantial support to farmers in the marginal lands through special measures in their designated less favoured areas. These were extended by 1.2 million hectares (14 per cent.) in 1984 and as a result 36,000 additional holdings became eligible for special benefits. These include hill livestock compensatory allowances, enhanced rates of capital grants, grants for craft and tourism projects (since 1985) and special support for Scottish crofters.
Expenditure on the additional less favoured areas support since 1979 has been:
£ million 1979–80 111.4 1980–81 113.5 1981–82 102.8 1982–83 119.6 1983–84 123.5 1984–85 129.7 1985–86 137.9 1986–87 140.9
(Figures are taken from Annual Reviews of Agriculture 1984 to 1987.)
In addition, an exceptional weather aid worth £16.7 million was paid to many livestock producers in the less favoured areas in 1985.
Other Government measures have also been of particular assistance to farmers in less favoured areas. The wool guarantee has increased in the period from 115p/kg to 129p/kg which has helped producers develop wool quality. This has increased British wool exports notably to Japan where our exports have risen from £870,000 in 1980 to £8.5 million in 1985. The environmentally sensitive areas scheme which I have introduced is of particular value to marginal farmers since it helps to protect some areas of traditional, less intensive farming. I announced in February that the funding devoted to this scheme was to be doubled as part of a package of measures to encourage alternative land use and increase diversity on farms. These measures will provide further useful opportunities for those in marginal areas and include a new farm woodland scheme; grants for on-farm diversification and more emphasis on novel crops and livestock in our research development and advisory programmes.