The European Commission has proposed to replace so-called Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) with a new designation known as Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC).
This requires a mapping exercise to ensure 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 ongoing 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 important we get this mapping exercise right.
“Initial Defra indications suggest 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.”
Visit www.defra.gov.uk for more information.