Natural England
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Natural England helping farmers deal with the drought

To help farmers and growers cope with the drought conditions that, despite recent rainfall, continues to affect some parts of the country, Natural England is ensuring that the appropriate Environmental Stewardship (ES) derogations are made available as quickly as possible to farmers who are in agri-environment schemes.

Natural England provides funding to farmers and land managers through a range of agri-environment schemes that have a total value of around £400 million per year.  The payments are linked to specific types of land management being carried out by farmers and other land managers.  But these requirements can be lifted in exceptional circumstances, such as drought.

A new section on Natural England’s website has been set up to provide information for farmers in Environmental Stewardship who are affected by the drought and gives full details on how to request a derogation

Natural England is monitoring the situation closely and is on standby to receive requests for amendments to ES agreements that help farmers during this difficult period.

Requests for derogation are most likely to relate to:

  • grassland stewardship options - including requests to cut hay early for fodder, supplementary feeding or permission for swards to be grazed lower to alleviate animal welfare concerns,

  • spring-sown wild bird and flower & nectar seed mixes - for example, where plots intended for spring-sown mixtures have been baked hard and a significant amount of fuel and labour would be needed prepare a suitable seed bed.

Ian Fugler, Natural England’s Director for Land Management said: “The current situation is having a major impact on farmers in some parts of the country, a situation which may still get worse despite recent rain fall in some areas.  At Natural England we want to ensure that the appropriate support and advice is available to help farmers deal with the consequences of these dry conditions.  Since the start of the dry spell last year, we have so far received and responded to 51 derogations from ELS agreement holders and 10 from HLS agreement holders.

“If any farmers and land managers need information or advice about their Environmental Stewardship agreements and the impacts of the drought, then please get in touch with us through your local Natural England adviser or by calling us on 0300 060 0011.”

Advice on getting a derogation

Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) / Organic ELS agreements:
Agreement holders may proceed with the changes to their land management as soon as they have sent a
Derogation Notice to Natural England.  There are a few exceptions, for example where SSSI land and archaeological sites are involved, and in these cases written consent is needed from Natural England before proceeding.

Full details are set out in the ELS scheme handbook and the OELS scheme handbook.
For further information or assistance call Natural England on 0300 060 0011.

Higher Level Stewardship agreements
As each HLS agreement is tailored to individual circumstances, HLS agreement holders should contact their local Natural England adviser and a Derogation Request form must be completed.  The terms of the derogation will then be agreed between a Natural England adviser and the agreement holder and the proposed changes to management can be carried out once written confirmation of the derogation request has been received from Natural England  Full details are set out in the HLS Handbook.

Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS), Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) and Habitat Scheme
Arrangements are as for HLS – see above.

Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) Capital Grants Scheme
Financial support is available to help farmers to become better prepared for drought through the
CSF Capital Grants Scheme.  Scheme funding can help towards projects such as the installation of rainwater harvesting and storage plants on the farm and other practical measures to increase the efficiency of water use in the future.  This year’s CSF Capital Grants Scheme application period is now open and closes on 30th April 2012.

For further information, please contact:
David Hirst, Natural England press office on 0782 7821679 or email
david.hirst@naturalengland.org.uk

For further information about Natural England please visit: www.naturalengland.org.uk

Additional notes:

Derogations for drought typically relate to:

  • grassland stewardship options – including requests to cut hay early for fodder, supplementary feeding or permission for swards to be grazed lower to alleviate animal welfare concerns;

  • spring-sown wild bird and flower & nectar seed mixes – including issues with the establishment or re-establishment, e.g. where plots destined for spring-sown mixtures have been baked hard and a significant amount of fuel and labour would be needed prepare a fine enough seed bed.

  • Derogations may also be requested for other reasons, e.g. to control serious weed infestations using herbicides

Some farmers may wish to vary their abstraction licences as a result of the drought and these variations will generally be dealt with by the Environment Agency who will seek advice from Natural England if this is needed.  Natural England has assured the Secretary of State that we will deal with all such advice in a prompt and pragmatic way.  Our advice will continue to be based on the available evidence concerning the implications for the natural environment.

Financial support is available for farmers to become better prepared for drought through the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) Capital Grants Scheme.  Applying for funding from the scheme could help towards projects such as installing rainwater harvesting and storage plants on the farm, as well as supporting other practical measures that would help with more efficient water use in the future.  This year’s CSF Capital Grants Scheme application window is from 1st March to 30th April 2012.

About Natural England
Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.

  • We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.

  • We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and advising on their conservation.

  • We run England’s Environmental Stewardship green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.

  • We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.

  • We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.

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