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Stackyard News Feb 06

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"The country needs a thriving and profitable farming industry" - Beckett


We need a thriving and profitable farming industry to produce our food, to deliver the landscapes we value and to help meet our future energy needs, Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told farmers today.

Speaking at the National Farmers' Union Conference 2006 in Birmingham, she outlined a number of measures and announcements which will help farmers and rural communities, working in partnership with government, to achieve this:

  • Consultations on the priorities for the next Rural Development Programme and specific measures for hill farming
  • A consultation on a grant scheme for farmers in priority catchments which will support them in reducing the impact of nitrates, pesticides and other pollutants on rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters
  • A consultation on how almost £1/2 billion of sugar reform should be incorporated within the Single Payment Scheme
  • The establishment of a delivery group, under the leadership of Sir Don Curry, to take forward the future implementation of the Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy;
  • The first of the £1.6 billion of Single Payment Scheme (SPS) payments for English farmers had gone into bank accounts the previous week.

As an example of what can be achieved by constructive co-operation within the food chain, Mrs Beckett also announced a new commitment by Tesco to boost fresh British food through promotion of regional and local products. She invited the NFU to join with Defra and Tesco to work on new ways to bring value to British food so that it achieves a price premium in the market.

Mrs Beckett added:

"The Government wants British farming to succeed. We want a world-class industry that is valued for its contribution to the economy and the environment.

"I am very pleased to announce that the first payments under the Single Payment Scheme were made to English farmers last week. This is a hugely important milestone in freeing farmers from the pursuit of chasing production-linked subsidy, helping to transform the industry into one with real and profitable connections to consumers and retailers.

"The next Rural Development Programme for England will begin next year and I want to hear people's views on what the focus for the Programme should be and how we can ensure that we deliver a range of benefits to rural communities and the environment.

"Over 25% of English farm land is under some kind of environmental agreement, delivering money into the rural economy and protecting the environment, and we are committed to continuing with Environmental Stewardship in the next programme."

The next Rural Development Programme will run from 2007 to 2013. The consultation paper proposes priorities for the next Programme under three themes: enhancing the environment and countryside; making agriculture and forestry more competitive and sustainable; enhancing opportunity in rural areas.

Proposals for future support arrangements for upland farmers will also form part of the next Rural Development Programme. Agricultural activity has largely shaped the upland landscapes that we value and provides many of the tools with which to manage them now and in the future. Views are being invited on how best to support hill farmers in the next Programme.

The Catchment Sensitive Farming consultation asks for views on this £5 million scheme which would operate for a limited period during 2007 - 08, including proposed grant rates and maximum levels of aid. The scheme aims to improve agricultural practice in forty priority areas across the country and reduce the impact of nitrates, pesticides and other pollutants on rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters. The Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative aims to raise awareness of diffuse water pollution from agriculture, and the requirements and potential impacts of the EU's Water Framework Directive.

link Defra Grant Helps Secure Future Of Century-old Society
link Rural Development Service Paves The Way For New Rural Funding Schemes
link 'Green' Farmer Brews Up New Attraction For Northumberland

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Department for Environment
Food and Rural Affairs