5 July 2002

FWAGtake-up good

NORTH YORKSHIRE farmers are responding well to the increasing emphasis on agri-environment schemes to support their businesses, according to the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG).

Regional farm conservation advisor, Phil Lyth, says his office handled 39 applications for Countryside Stewardship Schemes before the May 2002 deadline. And if they are all successful, the schemes will inject more than £2m into the farming economy.

"About 90% of the proposed schemes our office deals with are accepted – that is higher than the national average," says Mr Lyth. "A lot of it comes down to pot luck, depending on where a farm is and how its features fit in with conservation targets for the application year.

"DEFRA is mostly looking for a whole farm approach, where there are a range of improvements that can be made. Unfortunately, that often means that smaller holdings of 6ha (15 acres) or so have less chance of being accepted."

Proposed work in the Yorkshire Dales this year includes the management of 229ha (566 acres) of arable land to benefit bird species such as lapwings, tree sparrows and skylarks. A further 258ha (637 acres) have been submitted to encourage wildflowers and ground-nesting birds. In addition, a proposed 70,000m of drystone walls are to be restored. &#42