New measures introduced by DEFRA today, August 17, are giving farmers the option to relax rules in their agri-environment scheme agreements, to make it easier to provide vital food for livestock. In a package of measures the CLA has been lobbying for, these changes come into effect from today and last until the end of 2022, and allow agreement holders in the Countryside Stewardship or Environmental Stewardship schemes to take steps such as cutting or grazing additional areas of land to help ease shortages of bedding, fodder, grazing or forage crops.
The new rules will help increase access to bedding, fodder, grazing or forage in ways that limit its environmental impact. Forage crops – those fed to livestock or plants grown to then be cut for food – are also being impacted as less silage is made and farmers are feeding stocks to their livestock now, instead of saving them for the winter months.
It comes as last week, the Environment Agency declared drought status for large parts of England, including the South West, South East and East, with Yorkshire added on Tuesday 16 August.
The relaxing of certain rules relating to agri-environment scheme agreements allows farmers to use land in such agreements for livestock grazing and make hay as fodder for the winter months
In responding to this necessary news from DEFRA, CLA President, Mark Tufnell, said: “The CLA has been calling for a support package to help ease the enormous pressure farmers are currently under as a result of the unusually dry summer and subsequent drought. These new measures introduced today by DEFRA are a welcome response." Mark continued: “The relaxing of certain rules relating to agri-environment scheme agreements allows farmers to use land in such agreements for livestock grazing and make hay as fodder for the winter months. This is designed to help farmers focus on the welfare of their animals and ensure they are properly fed."
Urging the Government to continue working closely with farmers, Mark concluded by adding: “The initiative is set to last until the end of 2022, but with increasingly unpredictable weather, the CLA is urging the government to keep future actions to manage impacts of extreme weather under review.”
A full list of these easements has been published by the Rural Payment Agency (RPA) 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.