04 March 1998
Farm pilot programme will boost upland jobs
By FWi staff
RISING unemployment and intensive farming in upland regions will be tackled under new government programmes which will act as stepping stones for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The Government announced today that it would set up pilots in Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, and Bowland, Lancashire, designed to boost jobs and protect the environment.
It will also extend the Countryside Stewardship programme to prevent heather moorland being overgrazed.
Dr Jack Cunningham, agriculture minister, said: “The whole system of subsidies to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy has got to change. At the moment, neither farmers, nor the environment are being satisfied. A reformed CAP must strengthen the protection of the countryside and encourage rural development.”
Under the pilot programme, local groups will be encouraged to apply for grants for the processing and marketing of foods or goods that have been produced in a environmentally-friendly way. Grants will also be available for “green” tourism projects, business development, training and advice.
Government hopes the experiment will influence decision-makers looking at the future development and implementation of the European Commissions Agenda 2000 proposals, which aim to integrate rural economy and agri-environmental measures.
In addition, the Government plans to extend the Countryside Stewardship scheme to deal with the destruction of heather moorland.
“There are significant areas which have been overgrazed with a damaging effect on bird and plant life. I want farmers to have options under Stewardship to increase the environmental quality of these upland areas,” Dr Cunningham said.
Government plans to use funding from the existing Objective 5b scheme to establish the Bodmin Moor and Bowland projects.
John Cousins, director of agriculture policy at the Wildlife Trust, welcomed the Governments bid to extend the Countryside Stewardship scheme. He said a new breed of subsidies was needed if hill farming was to remain viable.
“Currently farmers are paid per head of sheep, which encourages intensive management and is hardly the way to safeguard livelihoods through sustainable farming. A redirection of payments is needed to protect the environment and to ensure farmers remain in the hills,” he said.