Defra announces stewardship drought measures

Defra has announced 40 temporary prescription adjustments (TPA) to help drought-hit farmers in stewardship schemes provide extra fodder, bedding or grazing for their stock.

The department said the adjustments would maintain the environmental benefits of stewardship while easing the shortage of feed and bedding ahead of winter.

The changes apply to certain prescriptions in Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes.

See also: Stewardship bridging payments to reach farmers this month

The full list detailing the 40 TPAs is available on the government’s website and includes measures such as changes to dates for grazing.

For example, the Countryside Stewardship prescription for the Brassica Fodder Crop Option (AB13) would normally only permit grazing after 15 October. But the newly introduced TPA for this measure allows grazing to start immediately (officially from 14 September).

However, Defra stressed that the extra feed or bedding must not be used for profit.

“The bedding, fodder, forage crop or grazing is mainly for your own use and to share with the wider community, but should not be for profit,” a government statement said.

It also pointed out that the adjustments applied from 14 September to 31 December 2018, unless otherwise stated in the detail of the individual options.

After this date, all options would revert to their original prescriptions.

For those with failed Winter Bird Food Plots (AB9) there is a separate section of guidelines

This sets out that since the recommended latest sowing date (15 August) for late season ‘rescue’ mixes had now passed, the requirement to resow failed or unsown AB9 Winter Bird Food plots would not apply for 2018.

For all of the TPAs Defra added that agreement holders were not obliged to make use of the adjustments and could choose to continue with their existing options.

But anyone wishing to make use of the TPA must notify Natural England before doing so, Defra said.

Farmers must still meet regulatory and cross-compliance requirements, and consider soil conditions (poaching, compaction, run-off), particularly on land that is grazed or used by machinery.

The NFU has welcomed the measures to help ease winter feed problems and encouraged farmers to make use of them.

Measures are ‘next best approach’

Senior BPS adviser Richard Wordsworth described the TPAs as the “next best approach after a  blanket derogation on stewardship measures”.

He said the NFU’s only quibble was that the farm industry called for such measures as long ago as  July and August.

“Nevertheless, this move will help farmers and we are pleased that our plea for a straightforward method of notifying Natural England has been taken up.

“The tick-box exercise should only take 10-15 minutes as long as the necessary information is to hand,” Mr Wordsworth said.

How to apply for a TPA

  • Fill in the form ‘Temporary Prescription Adjustments’ and email it to ruralpayments@defra.gsi.gov.uk
  • Use Temporary Prescription Adjustments in the email subject line.
  • Ensure a separate form is used for each agreement.
  • Natural England will send an automatic reply confirming receipt.
  • Once the automatic acknowledgement has been received the prescribed adjustments chosen can be implemented straight away.

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