§ 42. Mr. David Porter
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what policies he is promoting to diversify and strengthen the economy in rural areas.
§ 68. Mr. David Nicholson
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he is taking to help sustain the rural economy.
§ Mr. MacGregor
We are introducing a variety of measures designed to encourage changes in land use and contribute to the vitality of the rural economy.
The farm diversification grant scheme was introduced on 1 January. This offers 25 per cent. grants on on-farm investments worth up to £35,000 in a wide range of nonagricultural profit-making activities. These include farm tourism and crafts, farm shops, the value-added processing of food, agricultural products and timber, sports facilities, livery and, in less-favoured areas, pony trekking.
The Farm Land and Rural Development Bill, which is now before the House, contains the powers under which the farm woodland scheme, providing incentives for the planting of woodlands on farms, will be introduced. It also provides enabling powers for the introduction later this year of complementary grants for feasibility studies and marketing costs for diversification enterprises.
In addition, 14 environmentally sensitive areas have now been designated in the United Kingdom and four more are being designated. In these areas farmers will receive payment for following farming practices designed to conserve their landscape and wildlife value.
Finally, my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Environment and for Wales have issued revised guidance on development involving agricultural land which emphasises the need to foster the diversification of the rural economy.