French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll has unveiled new proposals for area-based support payments that would favour small farmers.

Under his proposed system, all farmers would receive a basic area payment – but he wants to be able to double the size of the payment for the first fifty hectares.

He also proposes that the payment system would apply right across the country, with no differentiation between regions. The French move is prompted by a desire to secure the future of their beef cow producers, and funding for the extra payment on the first fifty hectares would come from top-slicing all farmers' payments.

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These ideas are hardly new and join 26 other Member States worth of ideas.

George Lyon MEP said: "The proposal does raise numerous questions as to how it would work. One that immediately springs to mind is how to prevent farmers splitting their businesses into fifty hectare units to get the higher payments?

Alyn Smith MEP said: "There are lots of ideas in the mix, and I am making sure that the ideas best suited to Scotland's farmers are supported. The talks still have a long way to go. My biggest concern right now is the disastrous way the UK Government is representing us in these talks. The obsession with protecting the rebate will do nothing for Scotland's farmers."

Market round-up

Craig Wilson had a plainer show of store cattle at Ayr on Thursday when trade was similar to last week's. The 327 bullocks forward sold to a top of £1140 per head and 245.2p per kg to average £694.97, or 183p (including 75 B&W), while 137 heifers peaked at £990 and 229.2p, and levelled at £694.78, or 178.7p.

United Auctions sold 5020 prime lambs at Stirling on Thursday to a top of £100 per head and 227p per kg to average 150.2p (-1.3p on the week).

The Cumberland & Dumfriesshire Farmers' Mart had a colossal show of 6956 prime lambs and 10,814 cast sheep in Longtown on Thursday. That was the largest show the firm has had this century.

Prime lambs sold to £102 and 217.3p and averaged 155p.

Big, heavy ewes were sharper on the week, while plainer ewes were easier due to the sheer amount of weathered sheep forward. Heavy ewes sold to £106.50 for Texels and averaged £65.25, while light ewes peaked at £82.50 for Cheviots and levelled at £36.05. Cast rams sold to £125 for a Charollais and averaged £58.69.