To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what evaluation his Department is making of the progress of environmentally sensitive areas;(2) whether he intends to produce a report on farming practices within environmentally sensitive areas;(3) what evidence he has about the output from farmers in environmentally sensitive areas farming in accordance with regulations issued under the Agriculture Act 1986 in relation to output from comparable farmers outside the scheme; and if he will make a statement.
We are in the process of establishing a monitoring programme for environmentally sensitive areas. This will gather and analyse information on landscape, wildlife, historic features, farming practices and socio-economic developments. Our objective will be to assess the scheme's effects on these inter-related items and, as the hon. Member suggests, to monitor output trends on agreement and non-agreement land. However, the scheme was launched only nine months ago and it is, therefore, too early to gather meaningful evidence about output trends. I hope to publish a first report, as required by section 18(8) of the Agriculture Act 1986, during the course of 1988.