FARMS TO BE HAVENS
09:00 - 28 February 2003
A new scheme to pay farmers to become rural guardians could
the countryside" and save endangered Devon wildlife.
pilot project was yesterday launched in four places, including
after two years it will be rolled out around Britain if it
is a success. It
will mean each farmer who joins the project will
receive up to £30 a hectare
for using farming methods that encourage
wildlife to thrive.
project was jointly launched by Environment Minister Michael Meacher
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Farming and Food Lord Whitty, who
were looking for 50 farmers from the Tiverton area to test the
will give Devon farmers plenty of opportunity to use many of
environmental features they already have," they said.
"It will be a step
back in time in the sense we will have certain
animals and birds coming back
into the area, but we are not stepping
back in terms of efficiency of food
It is hoped that the scheme, which includes measures such
preservation of hedges and leaving margins around fields, will
the return of animals such as dormice, brown hares and skylarks,
plants such as cornflowers and the purple knapweed.
area conservation officer for English Nature, said: "This
could transform our
landscape and bring knock-on economic benefits to
the region as
"We have seen the loss of dormice because of hedgerows being cut
year, but if they are left to grow lots of nuts and berries, the
Ian Johnson, South West spokesman for the
National Farmers' Union, said:
"I think it is very important that as a
society we recognise who looks
after our countryside and maintains the sort
of landscape that we all
want to enjoy."
moves away from the need for subsidies for
production and towards Europe's
increasing desire to focus on the
Lord Whitty said that
by introducing the project now, the Government was
"getting ahead of the
Announcing the scheme in Berkshire, Mr Meacher said there had
been a great deal of favourable feedback.
"Over 80 per cent of
farmers said they might be interested in joining,"
he said. "With the help of
their comments, we have revised the initial
design to make it as simple and
accessible as possible."
A variety of different flora and fauna has been
affected by changing
farming practices causing pollution and
Mr Diamond said: "Historically the River Exe has been a very
and trout river, but soil erosion and poor management of manures
meant the gravel beds where the fish lay their eggs get choked
John Daw, a member of the NFU Council, said Devon had over two
Britain's hedgerows, so it would be a good opportunity for many
"A lot of farmers will find that if they just carry on with what
are doing they will qualify for it."
Farmers will be asked to
produce an environmental record for their
farms, recording any particular
features, and choose a number of options
to qualify for the
Farmers interested in taking part in the Tiverton scheme can
Mike Izzard, pilot area co-ordinator from the Department of
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on 01392 824 434.