Cumbria farmers have been told that cross-compliance rules are not as restrictive as they think, and do allow for traditional practices to continue.
Agronomist Paul Sweeney told visitors attending an event organised by Forward Farming that they should continue to do what they have always done – unless the regulations specifically say otherwise.
Mr Sweeney of Momenta – the company contracted by DEFRA to deliver cross-compliance advice to farmers – spoke as he toured a 60ha (150-acre) lowland farm at Hillfield, Brampton, near Carlisle, run by Simon and Claire Wood.
“It’s very alarming that farmers assume cross-compliance is imposing a major culture change in how they operate. That’s not the case,” he said.
“Farmers are far less restrained than they think under cross-compliance, but we do urge anyone who is unclear about rules to contact the Cross Compliance Helpline (0845 345 1302).”
Bryce Rham, also from Momenta, said many farmers were wrongly assuming they could no longer plough permanent pasture without consent.
“All permanent pasture that has been cultivated in the last 15 years can still be ploughed. Only land that has not been cultivated in this period needs approval.”
And livestock farmers were wrongly assuming there was a blanket ban on feeding cattle outside during the winter using ring feeders, he said.
“This is still permitted without consent on land that has been in cultivation during the last 15 years,” said Mr Rham.
But the Momenta team did highlight the need for farmers who are home-mixing on the farm to keep detailed records of all feeds and ingredients used.
“As we move into the winter and more feed is being handled on farm there is a requirement under cross-compliance to keep full records of all feeds – including minerals – that are used,” said Mr Rham.
Simon and Claire Wood, who hosted the event at Hillfield, explained to farmers how stewardship and farm forestry grants had been used on the farm over the past six years.
“We’ve been able to refence the entire farm using home-grown timber – almost 7000m of fencing – and have either planted or restored 2800m of hedging,” said Mr Wood.
The farm had received a woodland regeneration grant of £13,000 (70% paid now and 30% in five years after establishment) to cover planting 18 acres with 6000 trees and was also benefiting from the Woodland Premium Scheme for 12 of the 18 acres, worth £1300 a year for 15 years.