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Agriculture: Set-aside

Volume 704: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are proceeding with plans to take farmland out of production and to compensate for the loss of set-aside's environmental benefits; and, if so, whether the land that they will designate will be that which was previously set-aside. [HL5605]

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) recognised the importance of the potential loss of set-aside 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. This included commissioning the Rural Payments Agency and Natural England to work up how the preferred option—managing a small percentage of their land primarily for environmental purposes—could be delivered in practice. Their report and the conclusion of the health check are not expected until late in the year when the Secretary of State will assess the next steps.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they propose to remove 5 per cent of English arable land from production as set-aside land; and what assessment they have made of the effects on competition of this measure if other countries do not introduce equivalent proposals. [HL5631]

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 how the preferred option could be delivered in practice. That option would involve farmers managing a small percentage (as yet undefined) of their land primarily for environmental purposes. The RPA/NE report and the conclusion of the CAP health check are not expected until late in the year, when the Secretary of State will assess the next steps.

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 agreement on the CAP health check.