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Agri-Environment Scheme 14 April 2008

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is pleased to announce the continuing success of its Agri-environment scheme. The scheme which was introduced to the Island in 2002 aims to reward ecologically sound farming methods at the same time as supporting Manx rural communities and maintaining the distinctive, wildlife-rich and beautiful landscape that farmers have helped to create.

Successful nature conservation is often dependent on the continuation of traditional, less intensive farming methods. The Agri-environment Scheme encourages and rewards farmers for managing existing habitats by targeted grazing and careful timing of operations and creating new habitats to conserve and enhance the wildlife on their land.

The first 9 farms were signed up in 2002 for 5 years and have recently renewed their membership to the Scheme for a further 5 years. At present the scheme covers 12,000 acres of land which is about 11% of the Island’s farmland. The Manx scheme has been based on the best of similar schemes around the UK, most prominently the Welsh scheme Tir Gofal. Last year an extra 4 farms have joined the scheme and the size of farms joining the scheme has doubled since the scheme began. The pilot Scheme currently runs on an annual budget of around £200,000 and farms receive around £7,000 a year.

Some examples of management for which payments are made under the Scheme include low-input extensive grazing on wet wildflower meadows where orchids are present, conservation headlands on arable crops to encourage grey partridge, and moorland managed for a diversity of vegetation heights, which are good for red grouse and other wildlife.

Danny and Paula Creer of Cooilingel, Crosby were accepted onto the Agri-environment scheme last year and said: ‘It has been a fascinating and eye-opening experience, learning about the diverse wildlife species that are present in many of our farmed areas, such as the marshes with the Heath Spotted Orchids. Many aspects of the work required for the scheme will be beneficial to both the environment and the livestock we farm. We are very grateful for the support we have had from DAFF staff.’

‘The scheme is so important because it is encouraging us to maintain the diverse Manx environment and its wildlife for future generations and also allowing us to continue to farm to earn a living.’

Minister for Agriculture Phil Gawne said: ‘It is fantastic to see the Agri-environment Scheme gaining momentum and support within the industry. The farming methods used on the Island are vital in ensuring that the beautiful wildlife of the Island is protected and conserved for the future. I would like to thank the farmers who are so willing to look after the flora and fauna on their land and I hope that in the future the Department will be able to accept more farms into the scheme.’

At present there are 29 farms included in the scheme with many more farmers, whose land meets the good farming practice standards required, keen to join. At present a scoring system is used for farms which wish to be accepted into the scheme as the majority of farms on the Island now meet the criteria for entry. If you would like any further information please contact the DAFF Wildlife Office on 843109

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