The NFU has applied for an easing of the rules governing set-aside
land in order to reduce the risk of fires in the countryside and
ease a developing shortage of fodder.
Normally, farmers are required to cut the vegetation on their
set-aside land between July 15 and August 15 and are not allowed
to graze their animals on set aside land.
But the NFU is applying for exemptions from both those requirements,
on the one hand because of the risk that sparks from cutting machinery
could set vast swathes of tinder-dry countryside ablaze, and on
the other because many livestock farmers need all the grazing they
NFU board chairman Arthur Hill said: “With the fire risk
in the countryside already so high, the last thing the Government
ought to be doing is adding to it unnecessarily by being inflexible
on the set-aside rules. That is precisely what they would be doing
if they insisted on farmers cutting set-aside before August 15.
The extension to the cutting period we have asked for, to the
end of August, would give time for much-needed rainfall to green-up
vegetation and reduce the risk of fire caused by sparks from mowers.”
In the meantime, the lack of rainfall is beginning to have a serious
impact on the availability of grazing. The situation has been compounded
by lighter than usual crops of silage and hay, meaning that many
farmers will be left with insufficient fodder for the winter if
they use their stocks now to supplement parched pastures.
The NFU is seeking a general derogation so farmers can graze livestock
on set-aside fields where grass elsewhere has dried up.
1. Met Office Data for June: England & Wales Rainfall Series
(series began in 1914). The provisional total for June month is
24.8 mm, which is 39 per cent of the 1961-1990 average, which is
in the well below average category. Driest since 1995. England & Wales
Sunshine Series (series began in 1929). The provisional total for
the month is 240.4 hours, which is 129 per cent of the 1961-1990
average, which is in the well above average category. England & Wales
Mean Temperature Series (series began in 1914). The provisional
mean value for the month is 15.4 °C, which is 1.9 °C above
the 1961-1990 average, which is in the well above average category.
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