Less Favoured Areas in the Spotlight after 40 Years

UK - The NFU has urged farmers to take part in a new Government consultation on the way Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) are designated, or risk having their land classified incorrectly.
calendar icon 8 February 2013
clock icon 3 minute read

The European Commission has proposed to replace LFAs with a new designation known as Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC). This requires a mapping exercise to ensure that land which is agriculturally disadvantaged is captured under the new ANC designation.

LFA land is typically associated with the Uplands of England, but changes may see some designated areas lose their status and new areas come in. The online consultation, launched by Defra, will help form a part of the on-going CAP reform negotiations.

NFU head of policy services Andrew Clark, said: “Existing LFA land in England has been designated since the 1970s. If the Commission’s proposals to move away from LFA towards ANC designation come to fruition, it will mean significant changes to land designation which may well be in place for the next 40 years. It is critically important that we get this mapping exercise right.

“Initial Defra indications suggest that there may be a small net increase in the area of land designated in England as ANC, compared to the existing LFA, but what is extremely concerning to us is the potential changes on the maps at a local level. Defra estimates that around 12 per cent of the current LFA falls out of ANC designation. The NFU is consulting members affected to test whether the proposed areas properly reflect agricultural constraints, but strongly urge members to take part in this consultation or run the risk of having land incorrectly classified.

“Our initial assessment is that the Commission’s proposals do not accurately reflect agricultural handicaps. Land may face multiple minor handicaps, but when taken together, add up to significant limitations on what a farmer can do with his land. The Commission’s proposals fail to recognise this adequately, and when designating areas of natural constraint under the future regime, we strongly urge Defra to bear this in mind.”

In addition to potentially losing some existing LFA land, the new ANC proposals may result in significant new areas coming into the designated sites. LFA land is typically associated with the uplands, but agricultural land facing constraint may be located anywhere in the country. The NFU wants Defra to assess any new designations on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the future designation is credible and objectively set.

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