HC Deb 03 May 1984 vol 59 cc527-8
3. Mr. Chapman

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what initiatives his Department is taking to encourage farmers to plant trees.

Mr. MacGregor

The development of farm woodlands is promoted by the Agricultural Develoment Advisory Service, which has recently issued a display for use at shows and other countryside functions. Grants are made available for planting trees for landscaping associated with eligible farm buildings and in less-favoured areas for shelter belts. However, the main sources of grant-aid for tree planting on farms are the Forestry Commission and, for smaller areas of amenity planting, the Countryside Commission.

Mr. Chapman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. As many of our rural landscapes have been dramatically changed for the worse in recent years, not only through tree diseases and drought, but through far too much uprooting of our hedgerows—the rural seedbed of much of our tree stock—is not the time appropriate to follow up the successful "Plant a Tree in '73" campaign with a voluntary campaign directed particularly at farmers to encourage them to plant many more in the autumn of '84?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall certainly give some thought to that suggestion. Many farmers voluntarily engage in big tree planting operations on their own account. My hon. Friend will know that we took steps last year to end all grants for the uprooting of hedges and that they are now no longer available. The Ministry, under the farm capital grants scheme, offers grants of 60 per cent. in less-favoured areas for the planting of trees as shelter belts and in all other areas for the planting of trees as a landscape feature associated with farm buildings. Therefore, we give positive encouragement.

Mr. Bermingham

What incentive does the tenant farmer have to plant trees, bearing in mind that the protection of succession that he had under the 1976 legislation is shortly to be removed?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman knows, because he has been very much involved in our discussions on the Agricultural Holdings Bill, that that is intended to stop the decline in tenanted farms and to start to get new tenancies on to the market. Most of those tenant farmers will have a long period during which many of them will take advantage of the incentives to plant trees.

Mr. Crouch

Is my hon. Friend aware that I wrote to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food last autumn pointing out that many farmers were burning down hedgerows and trees in the process of straw and stubble burning? Will he remind them not to do that again and to replace those trees that have been burnt down?

Mr. MacGregor

I am conscious of that problem. My hon. Friend will know that much tougher model bylaws for local authorities on the burning of straw and stubble have been agreed, which I hope will go a long way towards dealing with the problem of the destruction that is sometimes caused.

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