DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn has suspended a cross compliance standard to enable farmers to use mechanical equipment and vehicles on waterlogged soil and access their crops.

The Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition standard, GAEC 3, prohibits farmers from carrying out mechanical operations and using motorised vehicles on waterlogged soil. The standard was put in place to protect soils from compaction and structural damage caused by using vehicles when the soil is too wet.

The secretary of state has the power to vary or suspend the requirement in periods of exceptional weather conditions.

In view of the recent weather conditions and flooding in some parts of the country, Mr Benn has temporarily suspended the requirement until 31 July 2007 (subject to review).

Mr Benn was at the Great Yorkshire Show on Tuesday (11 July) and listened to a number of concerns raised by farmers affected by the recent weather in the region. These concerns centered around the difficulties posed by GAEC 3, after which Mr Benn the department to temporarily suspend the restrictions.

Mr Benn said: “At the Great Yorkshire Show yesterday the farmers and NFU representatives I met raised with me the problems caused by the prohibition on using machinery on waterlogged soil after the recent exceptional rainfall. I have looked at this overnight and decided to lift this restriction until the end of the month. I hope this will help farmers who have been badly affected’.