14 February 2000
3000 Stewardship places this year

MORE than 3000 farmers and landowners are to be recruited this year onto the governments expanded Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

Countryside minister Elliot Morley announced on Monday (14 February) that the ministry of agriculture is hoping to double the normal annual intake onto the scheme designed to improve the landscape and species diversity.

Some 500m has been allocated to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme over the next seven years.

This is part of a total of 1.6bn earmarked for environmental expenditure and rural development up until 2006 under the England Rural Development plan.

The main source of funding is the redirection or “modulation” of direct production subsidies paid to UK producers under the Common Agricultural Policy.

Money will be deducted from production-based subsidies and put into agri-environmental schemes.

Mr Morley said: “This is the government delivering on its promise to reform the Common Agricultural Policy, protect the farmed environment and develop the rural economy.”

He announced that there will be an extra 16m for the scheme this year, bringing the total up to 35.5m.

For 20001/2002 51m is available, in 2002/03 66m, 2003/04 81m, 2004/05 96m, 2005/06 110m and 126m for 2006/07.

In 1996/97 the budget for the Countryside Stewardship Scheme was 13m.

Farmers have until May 31 to apply to the scheme. The government hopes the majority of farmers will be signed up by the end of October.

Payments, which in addition to modulated receipts include matching government funds and new EU money, will be made available by October 2001.

The scheme will include whole-farm schemes and single objective agreements. Targets will help the government meet Biodiversity Action Plans for cereal margin fields and ancient hedgerows.

Species set to benefit include the grey partridge, skylark, lapwing, tree sparrow, twite, brown hare and dormouse.