Everything farmers should know about new hedgerow regulations

Farmers will have to follow new rules aimed at maintaining protection for hedgerows. According to Defra, the regulations will be introduced “as soon as Parliamentary time allows”.

Everything farmers should know about new hedgerow regulations

The new regulations will include a two-metre buffer strip from the centre of hedgerows, with no cultivation or application of pesticides or fertilisers, and a hedge cutting ban between 1st March and 31st August to protect nesting birds.

A notification process will roll out for farmers needing an exemption to cut or trim hedges in August if they are sowing oilseed rape or temporary grass.

The department has reported that more than 95% of respondents supported plans to maintain a no-cutting period and hedgerow buffer strips.

Guidance for farmers 

Defra is also proposing that the Rural Payments Agency will continue its role as regulator, with a default position of providing advice and guidance in the first instance, to help farmers comply with the regulations.

Farmers will be provided with advice from the RPA to help them comply with the new rules. A consultation will also be held to inform the statutory guidance used to enforce the regulations.

Civil and criminal sanctions will be taken against farmers who cause serious or repeated damage to hedgerows.

Farmers’ voice matters

NFU Vice President Rachel Hallos commented that it was “encouraging” to see that Defra had listened to farmers.

“Balancing the need to continue protecting hedgerows while producing food on farms is vital for our food security,” she added.

Hedgerows provide ecological benefits, including wildlife habitats, slowing soil erosion and water run-off, supporting crop pollinators and absorbing carbon.

Currently, over 90,000km of hedgerows are being managed through 16,000 agreements in the government’s Countryside Stewardship and Sustainable Farming Incentive schemes, and more than 13,000km of hedgerows created or restored using Countryside Stewardship grants.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “I am delighted that thousands of farmers are taking up the support and guidance on offer in our Countryside Stewardship and Sustainable Farming Incentive schemes.”

To have your opinion heard, email editorial@farmersguide.co.uk.

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