18 February 2000
MAFF to avoid threat to hedgerows?

By FWi staff

THE Ministry of Agriculture may pull back from enforcing controversial EU subsidy rules which could see Britains hedgerows decimated, farm minister Nick Brown has hinted.

A MAFF decision to enforce Brussels rules unleashed a storm of protest from farmers recently.

The rules state that field boundaries encroaching more than 2m into a field must be deducted from the Ordnance Survey declared area.

To avoid the risk of losing Integrated Administration and Control System payments, farmers claimed they would have to measure all boundaries accurately.

In doing so they would have to cut back hedges hard, or even grub out some of these wildlife havens.

Such action flies in the face of good environmental practice at a time when the government is expanding agri-environmental schemes.

But at the Sentry Farming conference in Cambridgeshire on Thursday (18 February), Mr Brown gave farmers hope that the ruling would not be enforced.

Mr Brown revealed that he had been discussing the matter with EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler.

He was responding to a much-applauded question from the floor asking if he would at least defer the ruling until this seasons IACS forms were completed.

“We are in the middle of some quite sensitive discussions. I am rather hoping we can go back to our earlier position,” he said.

“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.”