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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hot-and-dry-weather-conditions-in-england/hot-and-dry-weather-conditions-in-england
1. Hot and dry weather conditions in England
The prolonged hot and dry weather conditions are causing difficulties for farmers in meeting the requirements of rural grant and payment schemes. The guidance below sets out how to deal with any difficulties arising from the unusual weather affecting the following schemes:
- Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)
- Countryside Stewardship (CS)
- Environmental Stewardship (ES)
- Farm Woodland Premium Scheme (FWPS)
- Woodland Grant Scheme (WGS)
- English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS), including Farm Woodland Payments (FWP)
2. Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)
2.1 Land eligibility
Land that was eligible for BPS and is affected by wildfire, will not become ineligible because of the fire. The land is still agricultural even if there is no green cover.
Land that was not eligible for BPS before it was affected by wildfire, may become eligible if the scrub or bracken is cleared by the fire. In these cases, if the land has become agricultural, the change in land cover needs to be mapped by RPA (although this land cannot be added to your BPS 2018 application as the deadline has passed). To remap land cover, fill in an RLE1 form and send it to RPA.
2.2 Cross compliance
Wildfire would not be a breach of cross compliance rules unless the fire was the result of the claimant’s intentional or negligent action.
2.3 Greening: Ecological Focus Area (EFA) catch crops
You do not need to tell us in advance if you’re struggling to establish a catch crop that you have declared for EFA by the 20 August deadline because of the weather conditions. You should still take all reasonable steps to establish your catch crop and keep evidence. If we inspect and you have not been able to establish your previously declared catch crops we will consider the following.
Using alternative EFA features (known as compensatory EFA) on your land, for example, hedges, buffer strips or field margins. Even if you have not declared them, we can count them towards your EFA requirements. You can discuss using them with our inspector during any visit. Read page 39 of the Basic Payment Scheme: rules for 2018.
If you do not have any alternative EFA features or areas (compensatory EFA), you must keep evidence that you have taken all reasonable steps to establish the catch crop. For example, seed labels and a farm plan showing that you intended to sow the crop. If the crop fails to establish by the deadline, our inspectors will need to see this evidence during any visit, also it will be needed if you wish to declare ‘force majeure’ as the reason you have been unable to meet the EFA requirements.
Our inspectors will treat each case individually and consider either compensatory EFA, or, if necessary, any evidence under ‘force majeure’. They will advise you about what further action you may need to take.
2.4 Greening: Ecological Focus Area (EFA) field margins
Information about grazing field margins or using them for fodder is available on page 42 of the Basic Payment Scheme: rules for 2018.
3. Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES)
Example of options or agreements which might be affected are hay cutting, grazing, whole-crop or low input cereal, woodland creation, and hedgerows and boundaries.
You may not be able to meet the requirements of your agreement due to the hot and dry weather conditions, for example grass is ripening too early or hay must be cut early. In these cases you can ask Natural England for either a Derogation under ES, or a Minor and Temporary Adjustment (MTA) under CS.
You will need to fill in the relevant form to apply for a Derogation or an MTA. For CS you need to also contact your local Natural England adviser or Countryside Stewardship Delivery Services (CSDS) as soon as possible, explaining the issue and they will be able to advise on what action to take.
Where a Derogation/MTA has been approved, such as for early hay cutting, you should avoid areas with ground nesting birds. You must receive the Derogation or MTA before you make any changes.
3.2 Wildfires and exceptional drought
If land covered by your CS/ES agreement has been affected by wildfire or exceptional drought, please contact Countryside Stewardship Delivery Services (CSDS) as soon as possible. They will be able to give you advice about what you need to do, depending on the extent of any damage.
Where damage is likely to affect what you are able to do in the current year (but the land is likely to recover by next year) you can apply for either a Derogation under Environmental Stewardship (ES) or a minor and temporary adjustment (MTA) under Countryside Stewardship (CS). You will need to apply using the relevant form.
Where the damage is likely to be more serious, and longer lasting (for example, significant death of plants in woodland creation or hedgerows and boundaries agreements), and which may require changes to your agreement, this may be considered as ‘force majeure’. Section 6.19 and section 18 of the scheme Terms and Conditions at Annex 1 of the Countryside Stewardship manual, explain what to do in ‘force majeure’ situations. The agreement holder must notify Natural England within 15 working days in writing of such an event which prevents you from managing according to your agreement.
Once the Derogation or MTA, including ‘force majeure’ applications, is received, Natural England will advise you of the next steps to take and any impact on your current claim.
Environmental Stewardship agreement holders must also inform Natural England in writing of a ‘force majeure’ situation within 15 working days of the event.
3.3 Where to find forms
For Environmental Stewardship, Derogation forms are available on GOV.UK for Entry Level Stewardship and for Higher Level Stewardship.
For Countryside Stewardship, you can either download an MTA form form from GOV.UK or request the form from Countryside Stewardship Delivery Services (03000 200 301 and select option 3).
4. Woodland legacy schemes
For affected woodland legacy schemes, please contact your Forestry Commission administration hub to claim ‘force majeure’ within 10 days of the event if it has been established under FWPS/WGS and 15 days if it has been established under FWP/EWGS.
The woodland legacy schemes do not have derogations, but under certain conditions contracts can be amended if part of the woodland has been destroyed - removing the affected area and continuing to pay for the remainder.