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DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn has extended the suspension of a key cross-compliance standard to enable farmers to use mechanical equipment and vehicles on waterlogged soil and access their crops.
The Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition standard, GAEC 3, prohibits farmers from carrying out mechanical operations and using motorised vehicles on waterlogged soil.
The standard was put in place to protect soils from compaction and structural damage caused by using vehicles when the soil is too wet.
Mr Benn announced after the Great Yorkshire Show that the standard would be suspended until the end of July.
In view of the recent weather conditions and flooding in some parts of the country, Mr. Benn has now temporarily suspended the requirement until 31 August 2007 (subject to review).
Mr. Benn said: “At the Great Yorkshire Show, the farmers I met, and subsequently the NFU and other farming industry representatives, raised with me the problems they were facing including those caused by the restrictions on using machinery on waterlogged soil after the recent exceptional rainfall.
“I responded immediately by lifting these restrictions and by authorising the Rural Payments Agency to allow farmers to use setaside land for grazing of animal and harvesting of hay and silage.
“Sadly, in the last few days there has been extensive flooding of fields in other parts of England. I have therefore decided to extend these restrictions on until the end of August 2007. I hope this will go some way to help farmers who have been badly affected.
The Rural Payments Agency has already announced that they have made derogation available to allow land set-aside in 2007 to be grazed or harvested for animal feed.
This derogation allows farmers to graze set-aside land with their own animals or harvest hay or silage for their own use. Farmers wishing to make use of this derogation should telephone, e-mail or write to the RPA Customer Service Centre providing the reference numbers for the fields which they wish to graze or harvest.
Harvest Highlights 2007 – pictures of combining and floods