HC Deb 13 November 2001 vol 374 c697W
Paul Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to encourage more diversification of farmed land into(a) fuel growing, (b) aqua culture, (c) coppicing, (d) organic and biomass farming and (e) leisure uses in the next five years; and what changes she expects in the levels of employment as a result. [13717]

Alun Michael

All the activities listed by my hon. Friend are potentially eligible for support under the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP). either as farm diversification projects or under specific schemes, such as the Organic Farming or Energy Crops Schemes. Encouragement of uptake under the ERDP is being promoted through a variety of routes, including in national and regional media, through the Department's presence at agricultural and similar shows providing the opportunity for direct contact with potential grant recipients, through revised specialist literature, and through the work of partner organisations and others providing business advice to farmers. Some crops grown for energy purposes may alternatively receive support under the Arable Area Payments Scheme.

As far as changes in employment levels are concerned, the ERDP was developed as a significant tool for the long-term regeneration of rural areas and the encouragement of an environmentally sustainable and economically diverse countryside. While the programme does include targets for numbers of jobs sustained or created under some of the measures, the impact of the programme on the rural economy and environment overall is potentially of greater significance than the single indicator of levels of employment.