Pilot schemes to pay farmers to save birds
Arable farmers in East Anglia and the West Midlands will be offered up to £494 a ha (£200 an acre) next year to use fewer pesticides and adopt environmentally friendly methods. The Ministry of Agriculture will announce two pilot schemes today costing £500,000. The move is a bid to save the skylark and other birds which have declined dramatically because of modern farming methods. Farmers will only get the pay-out if they agree to protect habitats and encourage the birds, and the insects they feed, on for at least five years.
The ministry is to increase spending under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme by £5m to £21m this year. Another £5m increase is planned for 1998.
The subsidies include £20 a ha (£8 an acre) for cutting back on weedkillers; £129 a ha (£52 an acre) to restrict weedkillers and stop using fertilisers on land earmarked for wildlife; £198 a ha (£80 an acre) to establish “beetle banks” in fields to encourage natural predators to attack pests and reduce the need for pesticides; £479 a ha (£194 an acre) to practise cereal crop rotation, leaving fields fallow in the summer and £494 a ha (£200 an acre) to leave land as uncultivated havens for wildlife. Countryside minister Elliot Morley, called for reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy to switch subsidies to countryside protection.