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Landscape Management

Volume 449: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research he has (a) conducted and (b) commissioned into (i) the capability of farmers to continue to manage the landscape and (ii) possible further changes to the Single Farm Payment to encourage this. (85120)

The Government are committed to conserving and enhancing the countryside and biodiversity and recognise the key role played by farmers and other land managers. The introduction of Environmental Stewardship (ES) in 2005 was recognition of the benefits that can be delivered by farming and provides funding to farmers and other land managers in England who deliver effective environmental management on their land. Together with the introduction of cross-compliance conditions under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS), this will ensure that the English landscape continues to be protected and enhanced. It will also encourage the retention, if not expansion, of countryside management skills.

Past research has considered implications of common agricultural policy Reform on land management, including the take-up of agri-environment schemes. A new research programme was set up last year to monitor the impacts of the introduction of the SPS on farm level change and the environment under the Agricultural Change and Environment Observatory Programme, details of which are at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/observatory/index.htm. The results of that programme will help inform the UK negotiating position in future EU discussions on both the SPS rules and wider CAP reform.

Environmental Stewardship has also an evaluation strategy, available at http://www.defra.gov.uk/erdp/pdfs/es/ES-EvaluationPlan-Feb06.pdf, and is supported by research and monitoring programmes. The projects under these ES programmes tend to focus on issues such as ‘effectiveness’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘improvements’ relating to the management options of the scheme. The ‘capability of farmers’ is not investigated independently but is a factor that can influence the outputs of these projects.