8 January 2001
Government relaxes set-aside rules

By Robert Harris

THE government has bowed to pressure from flood-hit farmers and relaxed the rules regarding set-aside payments.

Farmers struggling to cope with recent floods were granted a range of concessions to safeguard arable subsidies on Monday (08 January).

The 15 January deadline by which root-crop growers have to enter land into set-aside has been extended by 10 weeks.

Potato and beet farmers now have until 31 March to harvest their crops and put the land into the scheme.

The 50% limit on voluntary set-aside was also lifted, allowing waterlogged farms to enter up to 100% of eligible land into set-aside.

The requirement to plant green cover on these areas is waived.

Affected farmers must notify their Ministry of Agriculture regional service centre immediately with details of individual fields.

The move follows pressure from the National Farmers Union which has applied for further relaxation of arable area payment scheme rules.

It wants the government to allow farmers to claim area payments as normal on crops affected by failed patches.

The union is also pushing for permission for farmers to enter land set-aside after 15 January where cultivation has failed.

It wants to extend the latest sowing date for crops beyond 31 May.

NFU president Ben Gill said the NFU was desperately concerned about the effect of the appalling weather on the industry.

“These concessions will offer many farmers who would have been preparing for huge losses to get at least some sort of return,” he said.

Dire weather could already have cost farmers up to 500 million, according to the latest NFU calculations released last week.