Natural England
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Helping farmers deal with the impact of the winter weather on Stewardship

Natural England is reminding its farming customers that it will be continuing to make Environmental Stewardship scheme derogations available to help farmers cope with further wet weather or snowfall this winter.

Natural England is temporarily lifting some of the land management requirements that normally apply to Environmental Stewardship (ES) agreements, so that farmers and growers have more flexibility to deal with the impact of this winter’s extreme weather.

Geoff Sansome, Natural England’s Director for Land Management (South) said: “Farmers are facing some very difficult conditions on their land this winter and we continue to provide help and advice wherever we can to support the farming community.  We will ensure that appropriate derogations are available to help our Environmental Stewardship agreement customers to deal with some of the problems that this winter’s very bad weather is causing.”

Flooding remains a particular problem at the moment. In the parts of England where wet ground conditions will make it necessary to delay carrying out specific Environmental Stewardship options until the spring, agreement holders should contact Natural England as soon as possible for advice about a derogation.

Natural England has also confirmed that in the event of further heavy snowfall this winter then livestock farmers - who may have an agri-environment agreement that includes restrictions on carrying out supplementary feeding - would be able to provide their livestock with additional feed.  This would be a temporary relaxation for the duration of any severe cold weather period and it will not be necessary to contact Natural England for consent before carrying out supplementary feeding under these circumstances.

Farmers and land managers with Environmental Stewardship agreements can get advice by calling Natural England on 0300 060 0011, by contacting from their local Natural England adviser, or online 

Additional information

Derogations for supplementary feeding in winter:
Under normal circumstances farmers and land managers are asked to contact Natural England prior to undertaking any activity which is not part of their agri-environment agreement.  Although, it will not be necessary for most farmers to contact Natural England for consent for supplementary feeding in the event of further snowfall this winter, farmers on SSSI-designated land are asked to contact their Natural England adviser before undertaking supplementary feeding.  Any farmers seeking further information or advice should contact their local Natural England office.

Wherever possible, land not under agri-environment land management options should be used first for supplementary feeding.  Where this is not possible, agri-environment land can be used for supplementary feeding, but to reduce damage to environmental features Natural England is offering the following guidance:

  • Supplementary feeding areas should be moved whenever possible;

  • Any leftover forage should be completely removed to reduce damage to the sward after the snow has thawed;

  • Feeding on archaeological features should be avoided;

  • On moorland and common land, where landowners restrict the practice of supplementary feeding, graziers should consider whether to inform them of their intention to feed during this period of adverse weather;

  • Supplementary feeding may continue for four days after the snow has cleared if the ground remains frozen. It should cease once the ground thaws

  • Farmers on SSSI-designated land should contact their Natural England adviser before undertaking supplementary feeding;

Other derogations:

Requests for other weather-related derogations will be different from site to site and are discussed with agreement holders on an individual basis.

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: (95kb)pdf document 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: (305kb) needs to be completed.  The terms of the derogation will then be agreed between a Natural England adviser and the agreement holder.  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.

About Environmental Stewardship
Environmental stewardship schemes are administered by Natural England, on behalf of Defra, and fund farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land. 

The objectives of Environmental Stewardship are to:

  • Promote public access and understanding of the countryside

  • Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character

  • Protect the historic environment and natural resources

  • Conserve biodiversity

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