24 March 2000
Brussels relents over hedges

By FWi staff

FARM minister Nick Brown has announced that farmers will not have to hack back hedges to avoid losing subsidies – at least for this year.

The minister said that EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler has agreed that Britains existing practice for measuring fields should continue for the time being.

However, the situation will have to be reviewed for next year, and the Ministry of Agriculture will continue negotiations with EC officials to draw up new regulations.

The EU rule, which was proposed last year, would have meant that farmers would be ineligible for subsidies on field boundaries encroaching more than 2 metres into a field.

Farmers claim that the implementation of the 2m rule would force them to rip up hundreds of miles of traditional hedges – which are havens for wildlife – or lose out on subsidy payments.

Announcing the news, Mr Brown said: “Farmers can now be assured: if their hedges and other margins were acceptable last year, there should be no problem this year.”

He added that although MAFF analysis suggested most farmers would not have been affected, he recognised many more may have cut back hedges or re-measured fields in their concern to avoid losing subsidy.

Mr Brown said he was very pleased the Commission had realised the seriousness of the situation and was grateful for its support in resolving the issue.