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11. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what further initiatives she intends to introduce to encourage more environmentally friendly agriculture. [R] 
Alun Michael: The Government are committed to developing a more sustainable agricultural industry. Improving the environment is one element of sustainable agriculture and we have an expanding programme of measures in place.
We know there is more to do and expect that the independent Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food will propose new and innovative ideas to develop a more sustainable agricultural industry.
Margaret Beckett: For almost two months, cases of foot and mouth disease have continued to occur but have been confined to two "hotspots" in Cumbria and Northumberland. However there is no room for complacency and farmers should continue with the biosecurity measures issued by the Department.
19. Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the long-term economic impact of the foot and mouth outbreak on mid-Wales farming and other rural businesses in mid-Wales. 
Alun Michael: The outbreak is having a considerable impact on farming and a range of industries throughout the UK and this is certainly reflected in the impact in mid-Wales. It is not possible, at this stage, to make a reliable estimate of the longer-term economic consequences. Work is in hand to complete a national assessment, the details of which will be made available to the public.
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Alun Michael: Foot and mouth disease has had a massive impact on the rural economy including tourism and other non-farm businesses, even in areas with few FMD cases. The Rural Task Force was set up to advise on the impact of foot and mouth disease on the rural economy and the report reflects the way in which a variety of interests have been willing to work together to tackle the problems.
Margaret Beckett: The Department has received representations from an extremely wide range of interested parties on all aspects of the foot and mouth outbreak. Since the start of the outbreak, we have regularly consulted a wide range of stakeholders and worked closely with them in the development of our disease control polices.
Margaret Beckett: I am very much aware that the outbreak is having a considerable impact on farming and a range of industries throughout the UK. However, it is not possible, at this stage, to make a reliable estimate of the longer-term economic consequences. Work is in hand to complete a national assessment, the details of which will be made publicly available.
Alun Michael: The precise success in re-opening footpaths has been measured in percentage terms rather than in terms of the number of footpaths, which is less meaningful and could be established only at disproportionate cost. The latest available figures from the Countryside Agency (11 October) show that 92 per cent. of the footpath network in England is open again. This corresponds to over 109,000 miles out of a total of 118,248 miles. A list breaking down by local authority the progress made in re-opening footpaths since early July has been placed in the Library of the House.
Most of the remaining closures are in the Infected Areas in the north of England where foot and mouth disease is still active, and where farms are subject to restrictions for disease control purposes. Elsewhere in the country, individual paths may remain closed across farmland that is still subject to "Form A" restrictions, until full cleansing and disinfection procedures have been completed and clearance to re-stock has been given. There
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may also be a few paths closed where there is assessed to be a greater risk from foot and mouth disease, such as pig units, or for the protection of specific rare breeds of susceptible animals.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what support her Department is giving to the Youth Hostels Association consequent upon the restrictions on countryside access imposed to combat the spread of foot and mouth disease. 
Alun Michael: We are well aware of the impact that foot and mouth disease and the measures to control it have had on the Youth Hostels Association's finances. I have met representatives of the YHA to discuss their difficulties and possible sources of help, and the Minister responsible for tourism is due to meet them shortly. We are considering, in the light of the recommendations of the Rural Task Force published yesterday, what further help might be made available to the YHA.
Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the cost of hiring privately owned land to incinerate slaughtered livestock during the foot and mouth crisis. 
Mr. Morley: The cost of hiring privately owned land which has been used, at least in part, for incineration of slaughtered livestock during the foot and mouth epidemic is £741,905. Some of this was farmland with payment to the farmer.
Mr. Morley: There are extensive controls on the transport of livestock. Any further restrictions must be developed and applied on an EU-wide basis. We are pressing the Commission to bring forward proposals for further improvements.
Alun Michael: DEFRA sponsors the Regional Development Agencies' rural programme, which this year is contributing £75 million to the rural economy of the English regions, including £39 million to help deal with the effects on rural businesses of foot and mouth disease.
16. Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations she has received from North-East Bedfordshire in respect of the Rural White Paper. 
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Mr. Meacher: The current combination of expanded agri-environmental incentives, good conservation advice and legal protection for important hedgerows is intended to ensure that we increase and improve our stock of these valuable countryside features.
18. Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many tons of fruit and vegetables were disposed of in the EU in the last financial year; and what the totals were for each item. 
Margaret Beckett: Provisional figures indicate that some 1.3 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables were withdrawn from the EU market between 1 April 2000 and 31 March 2001. Just under 10,000 tonnes of this were withdrawn in the UK, 10 per cent. of which was distributed free or used for animal feed. Information on the quantity of individual products will be placed in the Library of the House.
|Product||Tonnes withdrawn in EU||Tonnes withdrawn in UK|
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