Farmers have voiced concerns that hedge-cutting will be banned in August from 2015 to protect nesting birds, as part of EU legislation.
Defra announced it will extend the hedge-trimming ban by one month to the end of August following a review of cross compliance.
The ruling means that from next year onwards it will be illegal for farmers to cut hedges from 1 March till 31 August (a five-month period).
But the extension will not apply this August – it will come into force in 2015.
Defra secretary Owen Paterson explained he was extending the hedge-trimming ban by one month to “provide protection throughout the bird breeding and rearing season as required by EU legislation”.
But the ruling has been slammed by farmers, who have said it will add further pressure to them at harvest, the busiest time of the year.
Suffolk farmer James Black, who farms 1,200ha of arable land and 2,000 outdoor breeding sows, said: “Normally, hedge-trimming is something we can do on bad days during harvest time, for example when it’s too damp to combine.
“This decision will definitely impact us. I think rules which are dictated by calendar dates are an absolute nonsense.
“The reality is, it’s the season which determines what we should be doing.
“If there’s a period of time when you cannot get on with harvesting, it makes sense to be getting on with other jobs.”
He added: “Why should we have to wait until the beginning of September to start trimming hedges? We will just be stomping around in wet conditions.
“I loathe legislation for the sake of legislation.”
Richard Wordsworth, NFU senior SPS adviser, said farmers and contractors involved in hedge-cutting were disappointed by the decision.
The extension will disrupt oilseed rape cultivation because farmers will not be able to get on their land to trim hedges before they sow their crop, he added.
“It’s just pushing people into completing work when the conditions are not ideal,” said Mr Wordsworth.
“If you start doing hedge-trimming on arable fields in when it’s wet, you get soil disturbance and compaction issues.”
Charlotte Lay, CLA conservation adviser, added: “Extending the no-cutting period will provide an extended food source and nesting habitat.
“But farmers who usually cut their hedges in August will be frustrated. At that time of the year, they are drilling crops.
“They may have to contract out their hedge cutting which will come at an extra cost.”