§ Mr. Laurence Robertson
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment she has made of support given to farmers in other countries to enable and encourage them to care for the environment and countryside; and if she will make a statement. 
§ Alun Michael
Precise support arrangements vary widely between countries. Within the EU, all Member States are able to operate programmes under the Rural Development Regulation. These include agri-environment schemes which encourage farmers to adopt environmentally beneficial farming practices by compensating farmers for the costs and income foregone and by providing an incentive payment.
The Department recently received the final report of an economic evaluation of agri-environment schemes commissioned from the Centre for Rural Economics Research at the University of Cambridge. This report included a comparison of agri-environment schemes offered in other European countries. It will be published shortly and will be available on the Defra website.
All Member States submit mid-term evaluations of their rural development programmes to the European Commission at the end of 2003. The results should allow an EU-wide comparison and assessment of rural development support in general, including agri-environment support.