By Farmers Weekly staff
MAFFs crackdown on IACS field boundary rules may be lifted soon, farm minister Nick Brown hinted at last weeks Sentry Farming conference.
A decision to enforce Brussels rules stating that boundaries encroaching more than 2m into a field must be deducted from the Ordnance Survey declared area, unleashed a storm of protest recently.
To avoid losing IACS payments, farmers claimed they would have to measure all boundaries accurately, and cut back hedges hard, or even grub some out, flying in the face of good environmental practice.
Responding to a much-applauded question asking him to at least defer the ruling until this seasons IACS forms were completed, Mr Brown revealed he was discussing the matter with EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler.
“We are in the middle of some quite sensitive discussions,” he said.
“I am rather hoping we can go back to our earlier position. I cant say that we can do that today.
“But it is not in our national interest to pull hedges up. I am very focused in trying to find a way through this.”
Suffolk farmer John Mann is one of many hoping for a speedy decision.
He has 20 miles of wide hedges on the familys 263ha (650-acre) Grange Farm, Rendham, and faces a stark choice.
“I either have to start hacking back or get in an expensive professional adviser to help measure up.
We could lose thousands if we make a mistake.”
His father, Donald, who died recently, spent many years improving the farms wildlife habitat and won a European Year of the Environment Award in 1988.
“The farm is a green island in the midst of prairie countryside,” says Mr Mann.
“Slashing back our hedges, just as the nesting season is approaching, would undo most of that good work.”
FWAGs Jill Hopkinson says: “Clearly this regulation has caused difficult decisions to be made and any flexibility in interpretation would be welcome.
“Flexibility in administering the rules this year would allow farmers a breathing space to assess the options on their farms.”
- MAFF to avoid threat to hedgerows?, FWi, 18 February, 2000
- EU hedgerow ruling squeezes wildlife, FWi, 08 December, 1999