23 March 2000
Ministry seeks deal over hedge rule

By FWi staff

The MINISTRY of Agriculture hopes to persuade Brussels “as soon as possible” to drop a proposal that threatens thousands of Britains hedges.

But MAFF officials insist that no agreement has yet been reached on the “Two-metre rule”, which farmers say could cost them thousands of pounds.

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

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

But it is thought that the EU Commission is on the verge of agreeing to MAFF proposals to exclude an estimated 95% of UK hedges from the rule.

The MAFF proposals would increase the width allowed to 3m and provide environmental justifications for excluding hedges from the rule.

Exemptions would apply to hedges in areas of “environmental or scenic importance” or those which are near agri-environmental schemes.

The proposed wording is said to be deliberately loose in order to allow the maximum number of hedges to be exempted.

A MAFF spokeswoman confirmed that MAFF has put its proposal for exemption to the commission, but insisted no agreement had yet been reached.

She acknowledged that the May 15 deadline for subsidy claims meant the situation was urgent and said MAFF wanted to achieve a rapid solution.