Plan aims to set aside more land

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The Independent Online
NEW MEASURES to pay farmers more money for taking land out of production in set-aside schemes were proposed yesterday by the Government, just as the Prince of Wales, speaking at a Crofters' Union conference in Stornoway, attacked such policies, writes Oliver Gillie.

The government scheme proposes using set-aside land for environmentally productive purposes such as providing pasture for wild geese, or creating corridors for wildlife at the margins of fields and along waterways. John Gummer, Minister for Agriculture, announced a package of proposals for consultation which would mean spending an extra pounds 31m over three years on environmentally sensitive projects.

The scheme will pay farmers to provide access to the public on certain set-aside land and offer new options for managing it. Farmers might for example be paid to seed meadowland with wild grass and flowers, while at the same time allowing the public free access. Farmers may also be paid to provide specialised habitats for wildlife.

Mr Gummer also proposed a major extension of set-aside which will take some land out of production for 20 years. This would allow for the improvement of wildlife habitats.

The Prince of Wales predicted that set-aside schemes would fail in Europe as they have in the US. He said the schemes would cost jobs and fail to achieve their aim of cutting food mountains because farmers would simply increase the yield from land they still cultivated.

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