HC Deb 30 January 1991 vol 184 cc541-2W
Mr. Morley

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what studies his Department has undertaken or commissioned to determine what savings are made in common agricultural policy commodity market support by farmers forestalling increased production by joining the set-aside scheme; and what are the results.

Mr. Curry

The Department has commissioned an evaluation of the set-aside scheme by Reading university, and we are awaiting the results.

Mr. Macdonald

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) whether he will make it his policy to extend the currently experimental countryside premium top up scheme from the east of England to the whole of the farmed countryside subsequent to his Ministry taking over the running of this scheme; whether he will extend the period of agreement under the scheme on set-aside land; and what plans he has to ensure that any extension of the scheme is sensitive to local environmental conditions;

(2) what advice is available to farmers who wish to manage set-aside in ways compatible with wildlife and nature conservation; and whether he will extend the period of agreement under the existing set-aside scheme for land managed in ways compatible with the environment.

Mr. Curry

A booklet is available under the set-aside scheme which provides farmers with advice on how they may manage their land for the benefit of wildlife, nature conservation and the landscape. Advice is also available from the agricultural development and advisory service and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and, to participants in the countryside premium scheme, from the countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council.

The EC Commission's proposals on agriculture and the environment contain measures which, if adopted, would permit the Agriculture Departments to take over the countryside premium scheme and the payment of set-aside aid for up to 20 years on afforested land or land used for specified ecological purposes. Subject to adoption of these proposals and review of the existing scheme, the intention is to extend the countryside premium scheme to the whole of Great Britain.

If appropriate, the period of set-aside agreements will be reconsidered in light of any changes addopted by the Council of Ministers.