A ban on using vehicles on waterlogged soils has been suspended so flood-hit farmers in Cumbria can repair damage and remove debris.

Known as GAEC 3, the Good Agricultural and Environment Condition standard was suspended on Friday (27 November).

The standard was put in place to protect soils from compaction and structural damage caused by using vehicles when the soil is too wet.

But DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn temporarily suspended the requirement until 31 December 2009.

Mr Benn said: “The recent extreme weather in Cumbria has caused a lot of distress and made life difficult for many people, including farmers.

“I have therefore today brought in this exemption to help Cumbrian farmers start their clean up and recovery.

“We will continue to do what we can to assist the community in rebuilding after the devastating flooding.”

Mr Benn has the power to vary or suspend the requirement in periods of exceptional weather conditions.

Farmers who wish to take advantage of the suspension to undertake urgent clean-up and repair are advised to record any soil damage from access to waterlogged soil.

They should also document any necessary remedial action that they will take on their Soil Protection Review (GAEC 1). 

From 1 January 2010 the restriction on accessing waterlogged soil will be replaced with a new obligation, removing the need for suspension of GAEC 3. 

Under the new obligation, English farmers will be able to access waterlogged soil if they record doing so, assess the risk to soil and undertake any remedial action.

Cross compliance applies to all farmers claiming direct payments including the Single Payment and land-based rural development schemes.

Further information can be found at www.crosscompliance.org.uk.

For mor news on the unprecedented flooding visit our landing page.