NFU calls for rethink on CAP hedgerow rule

The NFU has urged Defra to rethink its extended ban on hedgerow trimming and allow farmers to cut hedges in August.

Hedgerow trimming in England is banned between 1 March and 31 July. But Defra extended the ban to 31 August as part of its CAP reform measures, arguing that doing so was good for wildlife.

See also: CAP reform at-a-glance UK guide

NFU vice-president Guy Smith said the extended ban should be revoked. “This is one of those pieces of over regulation that annoys the hell out of farmers,” he said.

“You wonder if Defra might struggle to understand why it significantly inconveniences practical farm management, if so we are keen to take them out on to farms to explain why.

“We have asked to see the ‘science’ behind the decision but as far as we can see the only bird species nesting into August is the woodpigeon.

“With the greatest respect to the nesting woodpigeon, given its meteoric population increase in recent years, you could argue the more we disturb it the better.

“It is true that a few species, such as the yellowhammer, might be fledging second or third broods in hedges in August, but we would question the viability of those chicks.

“We want Defra to reconsider and continue to allow farmers to trim hedges in August.”

The RSPB says hedgerows should never be cut during the nesting season (March to August).

Hedgetrimming is best left until the end of winter to leave the larder of fruits and nuts for wildlife, said the bird charity.

“Sometimes it is not possible to get on the field at this time of the year, and on such occasions trimming can be brought forward to early winter,” says the RSPB website.

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