Grants boost for 'green' farmers: Extra pounds 30m to help landscape and wildlife

MORE THAN one in ten of Britain's 280,000 farmers could soon be earning a substantial part of their living by conserving wildlife and landscapes, it emerged yesterday.

Gillian Shephard, Minister of Agriculture, disclosed a pounds 30m a year increase in funding for schemes which give English farmers state payments in return for 'green' farming practices. The package is part of the reforms of the Common Agriculture Policy to reduce surplus crops.

They will be able to earn money for converting intensively farmed fields back to wildife-rich habitats, using less fertiliser or none at all, and for improving access for ramblers.

The National Farmers' Union and wildlife and countryside lovers gave the package a cautious welcome, but had doubts about whether the money on offer was sufficient to lure farmers away from intensive agriculture.

Mrs Shephard revealed a near doubling of government spending on environmentally friendly agriculture to pounds 70m a year in England. This still has to be approved by the European Commission in Brussels and survive this autumn's public expenditure round. The Welsh Office announced similar measures yesterday.

The package includes six extra Environmentally Sensitive Areas (and two ESAs in Wales) where farmers are paid up to pounds 310 per hectare (2.4 acres) to conserve and enhance the landscape and wildlife habitats. The new areas are the Blackdown, Cotswold and Shropshire Hills, Dartmoor, part of the Essex coast and the land around the tributaries of the upper Thames; and in Wales the Clwydian Range and Preseli in Dyfed.

They will take the total number of ESAs to 22 and their area will then cover 10 per cent of England's farmland. A majority of farmers in the existing ESAs are receiving the payments in return for participating.

A new moorland scheme will pay compensation to hill farmers for reducing sheep flocks. Over-grazing is leading to the destruction of much of the country's heather moors.

Mrs Shephard also wants to pay farmers to set aside fields for 20 years in order to turn them into nature reserves. She wants them to recreate natural and semi-natural habitats such as coastal salt marshes, lowland heaths and water meadows.

A new grant scheme should increase the area of organically farmed land threefold, with payments of up to pounds 100 per hectare for farmers who abandon fertilisers and pesticides.

'Farmers who take positive action to conserve and enhance the rural environment over and above the requirements of good agricultural practice deserve extra reward and encouragement,' she said.

Andrew Clarke, the NFU's conservation adviser, said: 'It's difficult to say whether farmers will take up these payments - some are sufficient, some very likely are not. But we're in favour of the principle and this is a step in the right direction.'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London