Agriculture: Subsidies

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether he has made representations to the European Commission on flexibility for greening and agri-enviroment schemes because of dry weather this summer.

Photo of Rosie Duffield Rosie Duffield Labour, Canterbury

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent representations he has made to the European Commission on introducing flexibility on greening and agri-environment schemes as a result of the 2018 summer’s dry weather.

Photo of Rosie Duffield Rosie Duffield Labour, Canterbury

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what submissions he has received from (a) industry organisations and (b) farmers requesting flexibility in the application of (a) CAP and (b) agri-environment schemes because of the 2018 summer’s dry weather.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent representations has he received from industry organisations and farmers requesting flexibility in the application of (a) CAP schemes and (b) agri-environment schemes because of dry weather conditions.

Photo of Rosie Duffield Rosie Duffield Labour, Canterbury

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the effect of the Irish Government’s fodder transport scheme on the (a) price and (b) supply of fodder in the UK.

Photo of Peter Kyle Peter Kyle Labour, Hove

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what representations he has received from industry organisations and farmers requesting flexibility in the application of CAP schemes or agri-environment schemes, in light of the dry weather in summer 2018.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Farmers in the UK, Ireland and across northern Europe, have experienced a difficult time this year with the hot, dry weather. The impacts are likely to be most severely felt by grazing livestock due to the shortage of grass, but the full effect may not be realised until later in the year. We have prioritised practical solutions to help farmers increase access to fodder and bedding both now and in the coming months. These actions will help farmers to limit the impact of extra feed costs by allocating land to forage growth and grazing, but we will keep the situation under review.

Particular measures the Government has taken to help farmers are:

  • We have clarified that English farmers, unlike farmers in other EU countries where derogations have been sought, have been able to use fallow land for grazing since 1 July. That is because our legislation reflects what we consider to be the minimum EU requirement.
  • We were the first Member State to raise a concern with the Commission to establish Ecological Focus Area (EFA) catch crops by 20 August: Other Member States agreed with us and the Commission agreed that “force majeure” would apply in these circumstances, so we could waive penalties for farmers in this situation.
  • We are seeking a derogation from the requirement to sow only certain seed types which are unpalatable to livestock in EFA areas as catch crop. The derogation we expect to secure shortly will allow for grass and herbaceous forage to be grown in those areas, and for those areas to be grazed.
  • On Countryside Stewardship, Environmental Stewardship and forestry legacy agreements farmers are able to ask Natural England to agree a temporary variation to the agreement conditions, either as an Environmental Stewardship Derogation (to date, over 130 have been granted) or a Countryside Stewardship Minor and Temporary Adjustment (over 30 have so far been granted). We will allow farmers to derogate temporarily from specific prescriptions to provide bedding, fodder and grazing for livestock without materially affecting the environmental benefits of their agreement.

I will monitor whether the fodder import scheme that has been introduced in Ireland has an appreciable effect on supplies of fodder and bedding within the UK. We have also made the point to the European Commission that whilst the UK is committed to working to identify appropriate responses to this year’s weather impacts, these should not interfere with the normal functioning of the market or obscure the focus of farmers in mitigating weather impacts.

Opportunities such as the ones described above were discussed with a wide range of stakeholders at the National Farmers’ Union “Dry Weather Summit” on 1 August 2018 and we have received some further representations in writing from farming industry organisations. Further discussions took place at the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) Industry Partnership Group meeting in Reading on 20 August 2018. Additionally, a small number of individual farmers have made representations through the RPA’s Helpline. All representations received have been considered in the round and informed the approach we are taking to offering all available support to alleviate the impacts of the recent extreme weather conditions for farmers.

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