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17 YEARS OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACHIEVEMENTS: FIRST ANNUAL REPORT LAUNCHED

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Environment minister Elliot Morley announced today the publication ...
Environment minister Elliot Morley announced today the publication

of the first annual report for the Countryside Stewardship and

Environmentally Sensitive Areas Schemes. This is the first time that

the history and achievements of Defra's two main agri-environment

schemes in England have been assembled in one publication.

The report was compiled in response to a recommendation from the

House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Report

on 'The Future of UK Agriculture in a Changing World' (January 2003)

that the government should provide regular reports on the performance

of agri-environment schemes. Copies have today been placed in the

House of Commons Library.

In his foreword to the report, Mr Morley comments:

'This report makes a significant landmark in the history of the two

schemes. Both have made a significant contribution to the

sustainability and preservation of rural and urban fringe areas.

'The schemes have served their purpose well, but the time has come to

take stock and look to the future. We anticipate our current Review

of Agri-environment Schemes will lead to the introduction of the

Environmental Stewardship Scheme, which will replace both Countryside

Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas in 2005.

'It is a real pleasure for me to be associated with the first annual

report.'

Copies of the report are available from Conservation Management

Division, Defra, London (020 7238 6022) or by visiting the website

(www.defra.gov.uk).

Notes

1.The Countryside Stewardship Scheme offers payments to farmers and

land managers to improve the natural beauty and diversity of the

countryside. The scheme operates throughout England outside

Environmentally Sensitive Areas. It is operated by the Department for

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and is one of the ten

schemes that make up the England Rural Development Programme.

Countryside Stewards hip currently has over 16,000 agreement holders.

2.Farmers enter into a ten-year agreement and payments range from

£20 to£555 per hectare depending on the type of land management

agreed. The majority of payments are co-financed by the EU.

3.Management under Countryside Stewardship has been shown to benefit

several previously declining bird species including Cirl Bunting,

Stone Curlew and Grey Partridge. Over 1,300 miles of dry stone walls

and over 17,500 miles of hedgerow have been restored, with over

44,500 miles of grass margins being established. Land under agreement

currently totals over 500,000 hectares. Between 2000 and 2006, Defra

has allocated£500m to the Scheme, with a target of bringing an

additional half a million hectares into agreement.

4.In running the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, Defra works closely

with partner organisations including the Countryside Agency, English

Nature, English Heritage, the National Park Authorities, The Wildlife

Trusts, The Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and the RSPB.

5.The Countryside Stewardship Scheme is now closed for new

applications. It will be replaced in 2005 by the new Environmental

Stewardship Scheme.

6.After starting as a five year-year plan in 1987, the

Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme now operates with ten-year

agreements under the England Rural Development Programme. The Scheme

was introduced in areas of national environmental significance, where

changes in farming methods posed a threat to the environment.

Farmers enter management agreements with Defra and receive annual

payments to adopt environmentally friendly farming practices which

safeguard and enhance areas of high landscape, wildlife and historic

value. Whilst the scheme will still operate for existing agreement

holders it is now closed to new applicants.

7.ESAs are selected by Defra after consultation with the Countryside

Agency, English Heritage and English Nature. There are 22 ESA S in

England, covering over 1.1m hectares (around 10% of agricultural

land) and with approximately 12,500 agreements covering around

640,000 hectares of land. These include the Broads, the South Downs,

Exmoor, Dartmoor and the Lake District. Payments to farmers in 2003

totalled£56m.

8.The England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) provides a

framework for the operation of 10 separate but integrated schemes

which provide new opportunities to protect and improve the

countryside, to develop sustainable enterprises and to help rural

communities to thrive. The schemes (and a brief outline of their

aims) are:

Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas Schemes

(protecting landscapes and wildlife habitats, improving

biodiversity).

Organic Farming Scheme (promoting organic production).

Hill Farm Allowance Scheme (supporting sustainable farming in the

English hills).

Woodland Grant and Farm Woodland Premium Schemes (encouraging

planting of new woodland and maintenance of existing woodland).

Energy Crops Scheme (encouraging renewable energy production).

Rural Enterprise Scheme (supporting a diversified and enterprising

rural economy).

Vocational Training Scheme (improving occupational skills of

farmers).

Processing and Marketing Grant (improving agricultural processing and

marketing infrastructure).

9.A total of£1.6bn of EU and Government money is being made

available under these schemes in England during the seven years (2000 to

2006) of the programme.

10.For more information on any of the schemes in the ERDP, contact

your local Defra Rural Development Service office or visit the Defra

website at www.defra.gov.uk

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