Further measures announced to help drought-hit farmers

Further provisions for livestock farmers struggling to access animal feed have been introduced with immediate effect
Further provisions for livestock farmers struggling to access animal feed have been introduced with immediate effect

The Government has announced further measures for farmers struggling to access animal feed due to this summer's dry weather.

New flexibility from the EU Commission has been secured, which will help farmers increase the amount of feed they can grow for their livestock.

Farmers will now be allowed to grow grass and other edible forage in areas that are not usually allowed for grazing, the new measures announced this week highlight.

This is after the a derogation was secured from the EU’s Ecological Focus Area (EFA) winter crop requirements, which stipulates that certain areas must be left fallow or sown with crop mix that cannot be grazed.

The measures follow complaints by farmers earlier this month, criticising the government for announcing "little action" since an emergency summit took place on August 1.

The sustained dry weather in summer has meant many farmers have not had enough pasture to graze their animals on, with some having to break into their winter feed supplies early.

Flexible water licences

The new measure follows other solutions to help farmers affected by the dry weather, including the Environment Agency granting farmers 89 flexible water abstraction licenses to safeguard food production and animal welfare.

Defra published guidance for 40 Countryside Stewardship options which can be adjusted for this year without penalty if agreement holders notify Natural England by the end of 2018, and waiving penalties for farmers who fail to establish EFA catch crops by 20 August.

Defra Secretary Michael Gove said the UK has experienced one of the driest summers since modern records began in 1961.

"It is only right that we do what we can to support farmers who have been placed under the most pressure," Gove said.

"I am pleased that the flexibilities announced today will offer some help to livestock farmers by opening up new sources of fodder ahead of the winter."

Although August has seen dry periods interrupted by bouts of wet weather, the Met Office 3 month outlook for September to November forecasts that above average temperatures and slightly lower than average rainfall are likely.

The National Drought Group (NDG) has confirmed that water restrictions will be likely in spring 2019 if winter rainfall is below average.