Skip to main content

Agriculture: Land

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effect of implementation of his Department's proposal to require arable farmers to set aside up to 5 per cent. of their land on food security in the UK; and if he will make a statement. (229331)

[holding answer 23 October 2008]: The impact on food production—and therefore food security—of the proposal for arable farmers to set aside a small percentage (as yet undefined) of their land for environmental purposes is expected to be very small, given that such land is likely to be located on farmers' least productive land.

The Government support the abolition of set-aside but the Secretary of State recognised the potential environmental impacts by commissioning additional environmental monitoring and asking Sir Don Curry to bring together key stakeholders to oversee this work and investigate mitigation options.

Sir Don Curry's High Level Set-Aside Group reported in July 2008 and the Secretary of State agreed that measures were needed as soon as practicable to mitigate the environmental impact of set-aside loss. The Secretary of State issued a statement on the next steps on 25 July, which included commissioning the Rural Payments Agency and Natural England to work up, by the end of the year, how the preferred option could be delivered in practice.

Final decisions on the overall approach, and the detailed arrangements which will determine the impacts, for example, on farming or the environment, will need to be taken in the context of the eventual outcome of the Common Agricultural Policy Health Check. The House will be kept informed of progress.