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Cereals Producers

Helen Jackson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make an application for agrimonetary compensation for cereals producers. [136932]

Mr. Nick Brown: In view of the very difficult trading conditions faced by UK arable farmers, the Government have decided to ask the EU Commission to draw down £34 million of the optional agrimonetary compensation available this year. This is in addition to the £57 million agrimonetary compensation already announced for this autumn. The extra money will provide valuable assistance to the arable sector at an exceptionally difficult time and follows a series of discussions with NFU leaders about the present problems of the arable sector.

Organic Farming

Ms Drown: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he plans to complete the review of the organic farming scheme. [136914]

Mr. Morley: The review of the organic farming scheme was launched in December 1999 and is now completed. I am grateful to all those individuals and organisations who contributed to it. A note summarising the outcome of the review has been placed in the Library.

We have carefully considered the extent to which changes needed to be made to the scheme, which was heavily oversubscribed after it opened in April 1999 as a much improved replacement for the previous conversion aid arrangements. We believe that the priority is to reopen the organic farming scheme as quickly as possible, and accordingly we will begin accepting applications from 2 January 2001, with the first new payments being made in April 2001.

The organic farming scheme is now part of the England rural development programme, and its future operation will be reviewed as part of the programme's mid-term evaluation. Many of the issues raised during this year's review will be relevant to that evaluation, and we will ensure that they are taken into account at that time.

Against this background, one change is being made to the scheme when it reopens, subject to parliamentary approval. To facilitate applications, we propose to extend the deadline for applying for aid under the scheme after registration with an organic inspection body from three months to six months.

Farmers (Support)

Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list chronologically the actions taken since 1997 to provide support for farmers, by way of (a) extra cash, (b) policy initiatives and (c) promotion of agricultural products. [135393]

Ms Quin: The Government are committed to developing a framework within which the farming industry can continue to adapt to change. Since May 1997,

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we have introduced a number of policy measures, injecting £670 million (excluding agrimonetary aid) into the industry. These measures include:

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The 2000 Spending Review provides a further £300 million to carry forward initiatives under the plan over the next three years.

Agriculture (Diversification)

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what incentives are available to encourage diversification within the agricultural industry. [135236]

Mr. Morley: The England Rural Development Programme, launched on 3 October, contains a range of measures to encourage diversification within the agricultural industry in England. The Rural Enterprise Scheme will fund farm diversification projects. The Processing and Marketing Grant, Energy Crops Scheme, woodland grants and Vocational Training Scheme will also support diversification. The Ministry of Agriculture will also be producing a guide on farm diversification which will list these and other sources of funding and advice.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will be able to provide details of grant schemes operating in Wales.

North Sea Fishing

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which countries are excluded from North Sea fishing grounds until 31 December 2002 through accession treaties; how many vessels will subsequently have right of access; and if he will make a statement on the consequences for UK vessel access. [135553]

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Mr. Morley: Under the relevant accession treaties, all Finnish, Spanish and Portuguese fishing vessels are excluded from fishing in the North Sea until 31 December 2002. As things currently stand, they will be able to fish for non-quota stocks only thereafter. UK vessel access to the North Sea will not be affected.

Knacker Industry

Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many establishments were closed within the knacker industry in each of the last 10 years. [135142]

Ms Quin [holding answer 30 October 2000]: This information is not held centrally as it was only in April 1999, when the Animal By-Products Order 1999 (ABPO 1999) came into force, that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food assumed responsibility for approving knackers yards. However, since 1 April 1999 four knackers yards have closed.

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