19 July 2002

£400m will implement

Curry core proposals…

By Isabel Davies

THE government has given the green light to plans to redirect more money from direct payments into environmental schemes by allocating £400 million to the Curry report as part of its spending review.

DEFRA has announced that "core" recommendations of the policy commissions report on the future of farming will be implemented following a rise in its budget.

The reports recommendations included increasing the rate of modulation to at least 10% and using the money to fund a new broad and shallow agri-environmental scheme. However, this plan could be affected if changes are agreed to modulation at a European level as part of the mid-term review of the CAP.

Chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown announced on Monday (July 15) that DEFRAs budget will be £421 million higher than it is now by 2005/6. Compared to the existing budget this gives the department an extra £1.1 billion over the next three years.

DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett said she would use the new resources to "respond positively to the recommendations of the Curry Commission".

Mrs Beckett said money would be used to implement the broad and shallow scheme in 2005/6 and to find ways to improve efficiency in the food chain.

Animal health budgets will rise to pay for electronic identification systems, more work to eliminate scrapie and tighter controls to cut down on imports of illegal meat. Mrs Beckett is expected to outline more details later today (Fri, July 19).

Sir Donald Curry, who chaired the policy commission, said he was pleased with the outcome of the spending review even though there was about a £100m shortfall in the money he had requested.

DEFRA claims there is £500m over three years for farming but some of this money is allocated to waste management and other areas not covered by the Curry report.

"Its much better than we expected a few months ago and I think we have a package that will deliver," said Sir Donald.

The reason for the shortfall is because the government has decided to delay the introduction of the broad and shallow scheme for a year, he said.

The commission suggested the scheme, which aims to boost farm incomes by making it possible for all farmers to access agri-environmental funds, should start in 2004.

But DEFRA has decided it should be piloted for two years and rolled out across the country in 2005/6.

Sir Donald said the delay was disappointing bearing in mind the plight of the industry but he had been assured that the extra money would be available to fund it in the future.

Investment areas

&#8226 A new broad and shallow agri-environmental scheme.

lElectronic livestock identification.

lMeasures to help develop a more efficient food chain.

lBetter advice and training for farmers.

lOther measures such as the Rural Enterprise Scheme, Processing and Marketing. Grants Scheme and the Vocational Training Scheme.

lPilots for farm audits.

lTesting for TSE-type diseases.

lNational Scrapie Plan.

lPrevention of illegal meat imports.