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Defra announces major boost for sustainable farming

by 5m Editor
14 April 2004, at 12:00am

UK - The European Commission has today been asked to approve proposals for a new agri-environment scheme called Environmental Stewardship.

Defra announces major boost for sustainable farming - UK - The European Commission has today been asked to approve proposals for a new agri-environment scheme called Environmental Stewardship.

Proposals for the Scheme include an organic strand which will pay organic farmers £30 per ha for carrying out specific environmental management options on their farm, as well as an additional £30 per ha in recognition of the significant additional environmental benefits that organic farming provides.

Environmental Stewardship has been developed in response to recommendations made by the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food and has involved a high level of public consultation and a significant contribution from stakeholder organisations. The scheme is made up of three elements (including the organic strand):

  • Entry Level Stewardship (ELS)
  • Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS)
  • Higher Level Stewardship (HLS)

Entry Level Stewardship, which is currently being piloted, is the basic level of the Scheme and aims to tackle countrywide environmental problems such as diffuse pollution, loss of biodiversity and landscape character and damage to the historic environment. It is proposed that this will be open to all farmers in England and that they will be paid at a flat rate of £30 per ha in return for carrying out a certain amount of environmental management options across their whole farm.

Organic Entry Level Stewardship has the same design as the standard Entry Level Scheme but is tailored towards organic farming systems. It is proposed that organic farmers will receive the higher payment rate of £60 per ha outlined above, in recognition of the contribution that organic farming systems make towards increases in soil health and fertility, benefits for biodiversity and wider landscape benefits. It is proposed that conversion aid should continue to be available but be paid as a top-up in addition to the standard Organic Entry Level payment.

Higher Level Stewardship is designed to build on the basic Entry Level in order to deliver significant environmental benefits in targeted high priority situations and areas. The proposals for Higher Level Stewardship build on the best elements of the Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas Schemes, but include a series of new features designed to help farmers deliver the right environmental management. A wide range of options and capital works will be available to farmers under the proposals. These will be tailored to the individual situation and focussed on the outcomes that the farmer needs to achieve.

Speaking today Elliott Morley - Minister of State for Environment and Agri-environment - said: "Environmental Stewardship is good news for farmers and for the environment. Entry Level Stewardship, which will build on the successful pilot scheme, will mean that many more farmers have a chance to join the scheme, and that agri-environment schemes can start to make a real difference to the countryside as a whole. We expect the organic strand of Entry Level Stewardship to give many more farmers the confidence needed to stay in or enter organic farming, which will deliver further environmental gains. Higher Level Stewardship builds on the solid foundation of our existing schemes to produce one of the most flexible and outcome-focused agri-environment schemes in Europe."

Final details of the new Scheme will be made available immediately prior to the launch in 2005. Application packs will not be available until the launch of the Scheme.

Source: Defra - 13th April 2004

5m Editor