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Set-aside extension sought by NFU to help prevent more field fires
27/07/06

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.



fire - photo courtesy Yarik Mission

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 can get.

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.

Notes:

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.

link NFU issues warning as heat wave sparks crop blazes
link Farmers are stewards of the countryside says Environment Agency
link Ford’s £1billion green vehicle plan good news, says NFU
link English Champions at Major Climate Change Youth Summit

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