“A proposal to take 7.5 million acres of cereal land in the EEC out of production to reduce the community’s mountain of surplus grain will be made today by Mr Michael Jopling. the Minister for Agriculture.
Under the plan, which Mr Jopling will put to agriculture ministers from 12 EEC member states at a conference at Ambleside, Lake District, cereal farmers will be compensated for taking their land out of production: up to £80 an acre if the land lies fallow. less if alternative crops are grown.
Mr Jopling, the current president of the EEC Council, and his officials have estimated that it will cost £800 million a year initially.
The British Government has already circulated a discussion document outlining the scheme to take land out of cereals production. either permanently or for a minimum term of perhaps five years
Although so-called “set aside” schemes have been widely discussed, and have been tried in a somewhat different form in the United States, this is the first time that a British Government, and probably any EEC government has officially signalled that it is prepared to consider paying farmers not to produce.
The discussion paper estimates that if three million hectares of cereal land were converted, half to fallow and half to producing alternative crops, the cost would be £800 million a year.
But against that would be set the savings on the cost of buying and storing surpluses which could amount to £6.250 million over five years.
In terms of unit cost, it would be more economic to pay about £50 a tonne on hypothetical yields from poorer land to keep it fallow, than to buy grain at £112 a tonne and store it for perhaps the whole period of the scheme.”