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Set-Aside: Evaluation

Volume 590: debated on Tuesday 9 June 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What assessment they have made of the agronomic and environmental implications of set-aside under the Arable Area Payments Scheme. [HL2059]

In 1995 MAFF commissioned a three-year agronomic and environmental evaluation of set-aside in England from a consortium including the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, the British Trust for Ornithology and ADAS and this has now been completed. The evaluation concluded that for most farmers the agronomic costs of set-aside are small, with if anything a yield benefit to crops following set-aside and few increases in pest, weed or disease problems.Many farmers have observed positive environmental effects from set-aside and studies indicate that set-aside has benefited some species of farmland birds whose numbers have been in decline in recent years. Field studies showed that set-aside was an important habitat for these birds, providing breeding sites and valuable food resources. The Government will consider how voluntary set-aside and the agri-environment schemes can be used to help to retain these benefits if the rate of compulsory set-aside is reduced as a result of EU Commission CAP reform proposals.I am placing copies of the full report of the evaluation in the Library of the House.