9 January 2001
3000 wanted for stewardship

By Isabel Davies

THE Ministry of Agriculture has launched a drive to recruit another 3000 farmers this year for its Countryside Stewardship scheme.

The government hopes to match the number of applications received last year, countryside minister Elliot Morley announced on Monday (8 January).

Mr Morley hopes to have added around 2500 new agreements to the scheme when processing last years applications is completed.

This will bring the total number of agreements to around 13,000.

Mr Morley stressed the environmental benefits of the scheme during a visit to Allerton Research and Educational Trust, Loddington, Leicestershire.

“Stewardship already provides for over 1100km (683 miles) of restored dry stone walls, over 10,000km of restored hedgerows and over 700 miles of permissive footpaths.

“Stewardship has also aided the establishment of around 13,000km of grass margins, which are a haven for a wide variety of wildlife and plants.”

Farmers and landowners have until 31 May to apply to join the scheme.

A new handbook, which gives information on how to apply, can be obtained from any of MAFFs Regional Service Centres.

Under the England Rural Development Plan the government is massively increasing the total funds available to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

In 1997 the budget was 13 million a year. This has risen to 35.5m in 2000 and will reach 126m in 2006.