Challenging times for farmers affected by drought
10 August 2018
As you will only be too well aware, the prolonged hot and dry weather conditions have created difficulties in meeting the requirements of rural grant and payment schemes. Defra recently set out some guidance for Greening/EFAs due to the weather conditions...
They have advised farmers whose production has been affected by recent drought conditions to: 'contact their local Natural England advisor - either Land Management Adviser or Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer would be best - to look into getting a derogation or ‘Minor and Temporary Adjustment' (MTA) to tweak the agreement for this year only.'
Example of options or agreements which might be affected (by the hot and dry weather) are hay cutting, grazing, whole-crop or low input cereal, woodland creation, and hedgerows and boundaries. You may not be able to meet the requirements of your agreement, for example grass is ripening too early or hay must be cut early. In these cases you can ask Natural England for either a Derogation under ES, or a Minor and Temporary Adjustment (MTA) under CS.
Farmers and land managers will need to fill in the relevant form to apply. For Countryside Stewardship, you also need to also contact your local Natural England adviser or Countryside Stewardship Delivery Services (CSDS) as soon as possible, explaining the issue and they will be able to advise on what action to take.
Where a Derogation/MTA has been approved, such as for early hay cutting, you should avoid areas with ground nesting birds. You must receive the Derogation or MTA before you make any changes.
Please note: The guidance doesn’t specifically mention seed mix and supplementary feeding options, but if you are having difficulties then speak to your NE adviser who might take the line to apply a derogation (ELS / HLS) or a MTA (Mid-tier / Higher-tier) to help support certain changes on a case-by-case basis.
Dr Alastair Leake, Director of Policy & the Allerton Project, GWCT, and member of the Agricology Executive Board, says "At Allerton we were going to use green covers as part of our EFA but we cannot see any benefit from sowing something doomed to fail. Plus EFA rules mean we can’t get successional hits on black grass. So we are going to use our hedges as standby EFA. Many other farmers will have that option - most have not included them because of the issues around mapping, but with dwindling choices this seems to me to be the best route to take."