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Young see crofting as 'agriculture of future'

(First Edition)

CROFTING, the small-scale farming system associated with the Scottish Highlands and Islands, is attracting a younger population which sees it as the 'green' agriculture of the future, according to a report published yesterday.

Hugh MacLean, chairman of the Crofters Commission, said at the launch of this year's annual report, that there was a growing understanding of the inter-relationship between crofting and 'wider environmental, social and economic concerns'.

Crofting, traditionally a lone farmer or family working a small enclosed piece of land, has received growing recognition from the European Community.

Once in decline, it has recently undergone a renaissance. The 1991 report showed that more than half of last year's allocation of crofts went to those new to the practice.

The low environmental impact of crofting, coupled with the maintenance of a rural population, has seen it gaining increasing respect inside Brussel's agriculture ministry.

At the recent EC conference in Inverness, Ray McSharry, the EC's agriculture commissioner, reinforced crofting's green image when he said more had to be done in financial terms to recognise farmers' contribution to the environment.

Brussels funds an Integrated Development Programme and a Rural Enterprise scheme. Both encourage the expansion of crofting.

Mr MacLean said the Crofting Commission had to 'ensure the current momentum continues.' The report detailed total pay-outs by the Commission of almost pounds 2.4m under its Crofting Counties Agricultural Grants Scheme.

The Crofters Commission Annual Report 1991; HMSO.