Hill Farmers Let Down by New Natural England Requirements

Over 11,000 Natural England Environmental Stewardship Agreements scheme holders, who have pre-2013 agreements, have been informed they must now keep detailed livestock records if they are using grazing or livestock management options says David Morley from H&H Land and Property.

Agreement holders are now being required to keep stock movement records at land parcel level. This is to ensure that options are being met and implemented, and will be used as evidence to the EU to avoid financial penalties on the UK. Here David Morley, Environmental Advisor at H&H Land and Property, comments on the change of tack from Natural England:

David Morley

David Morley
Environmental Advisor at H&H Land and Property

“This is a major ‘moving of the goal posts’ for pre-2013 agreement holders at such a late stage. It is completely unreasonable, as those farmers signed up to their agreements on the basis of the scheme rules at the time.”

Natural England are justifying the move by saying that it makes all agreements consistent, in that keeping detailed livestock records is already a requirement for post-2013 agreements. However, many advisors, H&H Land and Property included, have advised avoiding these livestock options after 2013 due to the onerous record-keeping requirements. With pre-2013 agreements it was not a requirement to keep detailed records at the time the applications were made, so at that time the livestock options were in much more widespread use.

David says: “The requirement is to record all movements at parcel level, which is unbelievably arduous, especially on a large stock farm where stock are moved about regularly.”

As previously reported, the paperwork about the changes is rather vague, but the options that are classed as livestock options appear to be:

EK5     Mixed stocking

UL18   Upland cattle grazing

UL22   Management of enclosed rough grazing for birds

UL23   Management of upland grassland for birds

UX3     Standard moorland requirements

In addition to this there will be a range of HLS options with livestock requirements. However, HLS agreement holders already have to keep records and generally have specific stocking calendars as part of their agreements, so it is the ELS and UELS agreement holders that are being most adversely affected by the change.

There are a couple of small positive aspects to the situation, as David points out:

“If parcels are run as a block farmers only need to record livestock movements for the block as a whole, and not by individual parcels. Also many UELS agreements will finish at the end of June, so they won’t need to keep records for long before their agreement expires.”

HH Land

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