With the drought leaving farms short of livestock grazing, Defra has announced that it will be relaxing the rules of agri-environment scheme agreements to allow farmers to cut or graze additional areas of land to feed their livestock.
These changes are now in effect, and will run until the end of 2022; Countryside Stewardship or Environment Stewardship scheme agreement holders can now take steps such as cutting or grazing additional areas of land to help ease the shortages of bedding, fodder, grazing or forage crops for livestock.
A full list of the rule-easements has been published by the Rural Payment Agency and includes steps, such as allowing ‘buffer strips’ and field corners to be cut early. Guidance has also been made available to inform farmers how to record the adjustments they have made.
Defra has also said that, through its agriculture monitoring groups and by working closely with industry organisations, it will continue to monitor the situation and see what further steps can be taking in the coming weeks.
Environment secretary George Eustice said: “We are better prepared than ever before for these unprecedented dry conditions, but many farmers are concerned about water supplies and the impact on their crops and livestock.”
“We are therefore introducing temporary easements on agri-environment schemes to give them the flexibility to respond.”
Paul Caldwell, RPA chief executive, said: “We know that farmers are facing pressures as they deal with the consequences of these exceptionally dry conditions, and we hope these practical steps will help farmers safeguard food production and help with animal welfare.”
“We are committed to supporting agreement holders as much as we can during this difficult period and help ensure that they can maintain existing environmental commitments.”