27 June 2000
Increase green support, urges report

MORE money must be spent on agri-environmental schemes if the government is to solve agricultures problems, claims a new report.

And steps must also be taken to simplify applications for enterprise schemes from farmers, urge leading environmental groups.

These calls come from; Butterfly Conservation; the Council for the Protection of Rural England; The National Trust; Plantlife; the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; The Wildlife Trusts; the Woodland Trust; and WWF.

They want more resources directed towards paying farmers to look after the countryside and converting to organic farming.

More emphasis should be placed on teaching producers new skills to help producers diversify and improve marketing, claim the report authors.

To achieve this, extra cash should be allocated to the EU Rural Development Regulation (RDR).

The jointly funded RDR seeks to advance environmentally beneficial farming practices, restructure farming and to support off-farm rural development.

In December farm minister Nick Brown announced that 1.6bn would be earmarked for the RDR in England over seven years.

But Alastair Rutherford chairman of the Wildlife and Countryside Link Farming Group said this was woefully inadequate.

He said: Even with the new money, less than 10% of the 3bn spent on agricultural subsidies every year will go to protect the countryside.

Mr Rutherford also levelled criticism at the administrative jungle which farmers applying for rural enterprise schemes must fight through.

Farmers may have to turn to as many as a dozen organisations and fill out many complex forms before they can get the right advice and financial help.

“If the Government wants to encourage more rural enterprise, it will need to streamline these procedures and make them easier to use by the people they are supposed to help.