Give farmers 'urgent' access to new general licences, NFU tells Gove

NFU Deputy President Guy Smith said the revocation has left farmers without necessary legal certainty
NFU Deputy President Guy Smith said the revocation has left farmers without necessary legal certainty

The NFU has called on Michael Gove to provide farmers with 'urgent' access to general licences which are 'practical' and 'fit for purpose'.

The call comes as part of the union’s evidence to Defra on the impact of Natural England’s decision to revoke general licences to control woodpigeons and crows.

The evidence is compiled from hundreds of farmers' responses. Many said the revocation meant they struggled to protect lambs from being attacked and crops from being devastated.

Farmers also criticised the lack of warning which caused significant confusion and legal uncertainty.

Continued exposure to legal uncertainty was highlighted due to the rushed and unclear temporary mitigation processes, which included issues in applying for and the issuing of individual licences.

Responses also included inconsistencies in replacement licences resulting in a lack of clarity between what is a legal requirement and what is simply guidance.



NFU Deputy President Guy Smith said the revocation has left farmers without the necessary legal certainty as to how they can protect their livestock and crops from being attacked.

“With the growing season and lambing underway, the sudden revocation of these general licences could not have occurred at a worse time in the farming calendar,” he said.

“The NFU has received hundreds of responses in the past few days to its own call for evidence which illustrates the strength of feeling across the breadth of our membership.

“We have heard directly from our members how the revocation has not only increased worry for the farmer, but is causing unnecessary stress to farm animals and has caused mortality in lambs.”

Mr Smith added: “It is also clear from our members’ responses that lethal control methods are not used lightly. Yet, they remain absolutely necessary in increasing lamb survival, reducing crop damage and protecting food hygiene when other methods either need reinforcement or have failed completely.”

The NFU has called for Defra to take 'immediate action' to ensure that the replacement licences give clear legal direction for farmers and meet the needs of farming businesses.