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Volume 496: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average length of the growing season was in each county of England in (a) 1978, (b) 1988, (c) 1998 and (d) 2008. (286363)

The growing season is the period of time each year during which plants can grow. The thermal growing season length is defined as beginning when the temperature on five consecutive days exceeds 5° C and ending when the temperature on five consecutive days is below that threshold.

Meteorological Office information shows that the average length of growing season in central England was (a) 223 days in 1978 (249 days on average 1969 to 1978) (b) 258 days in 1988 (248 days on average 1979 to 1988) (c) 213 days in 1998 (270 days on average 1989 to 1998) and (d) 249 days in 2008 (279 days on average 1999 to 2008). It should be noted that there can be considerable variation from year to year. Data on the length of growing season at county level are not available.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to (a) assess and (b) tackle the environmental and social effects of intensive meat and dairy industries; and if he will make a statement. (286770)

We constantly strive to maximise the positive and mitigate the negative effects of all agricultural production by working closely with industry to ensure our food is produced in a sustainable and affordable way. We are also keen to maintain a thriving farming and food sector which can improve its net impact on a healthy, resilient, productive and diverse natural environment.

For example, in addition to ensuring compliance with new environmental regulations, DEFRA is working with the agricultural industry to deliver improvements through the Milk Roadmap and the industry led Beef and Lamb Roadmap, as well as stimulating initiatives on enhancing environmental performance in the pig industry through the work of the Pigmeat Supply Chain Task Force. Each activity aims to target the reduction of environmental and climate change impacts and assess the positive benefits to the landscape and biodiversity of animal husbandry while also highlighting any areas for further research and improvement.