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Rural schemes get cash boost

Cash for rural development, including the environmental schemes utilised by shooters in England to promote game and wildlife on their land, will be doubled over the next six years to an impressive £3.9billion, the Government announced last week. The money will help fund conservation work incorporated on many shoots, including field margins, headlands, hedge-planting and the sowing of wild bird seed mixes.

The latest budget for the Rural Development Programme (RDP) for England was announced in the same week that the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee issued a fiercely critical report into the mis-management of the Single- Farm Payment (SFP) fiasco overseen by former minister of state for the environment Margaret Beckett, now foreign secretary. Despite the attacks on DEFRA, environment secretary David Miliband was upbeat about the RDP funding.

He commented: ?For many in the countryside, looking after the environment is a way of life. I hope that the near £4billion funding will help all concerned build on the significant achievements already made and continue to make the English countryside a thriving community for those who live and work there as well as a beautiful place to visit. Shifting funding from farm subsidies to payments for environmental services, green farming, is consistent with the Government?s long-term vision for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).?

Approximately £1.4billion of the RDP budget will be funded through ?voluntary modulation?, in other words, the reduction of landowners? subsidy payments for production and a shift of the cash to pay for environment schemes including Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS). Landowners already take part in no fewer than 28,000 ELS agreements and the Government has confirmed that substantial new investment is available for HLS funding, which could be targeted to support England?s scarce bird species, such as corn bunting, snipe, redshank and lapwing.