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News - Advice and reassurance for Agri-Environment Agreement holders
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Advice and reassurance for Agri-Environment Agreement holders

Joint note from Natural England and the Rural Payments Agency 21 September 2007

1. Impact of stock movement restrictions on compliance with agri-environment agreements.

Following confirmation of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease on farms in Surrey, Great Britain wide restrictions on movements of susceptible animals are currently in force. Susceptible animals can only be moved under licence, for specific purposes (e.g. direct to slaughter) and subject to conditions.

This joint note from Natural England and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) sets out the position for farmers with agri-environment agreements (Environmental Stewardship, Countryside Stewardship, Environmentally Sensitive Areas and Wildlife Enhancement Schemes) who may find themselves unable to comply with their agreements due to this current restriction.

There are some 50,000 such agreements in existence and many will include requirements for grazing at specific times and at specific stocking densities. Some agreements will also include provision for public access and these remain open along with Public Rights of Way other than within the 3km Protection Zones.

Given the current circumstances, we have agreed that any non-compliance with an agri-environment agreement that is a direct consequence of the restrictions on movements of stock or of a closure order on access land will not be regarded as a breach of that agreement. Payments will not be affected in such circumstances. If you feel you fall in to this category please contact your local Natural England adviser who will be happy to discuss the situation with you. The RPA Inspectorate will discuss with Natural England any specific cases where the direct link between the movement restrictions and non-compliance is not obvious.

2. Cross Compliance

In relation to cross compliance, farmers are expected to take all realistic actions to meet the appropriate standards and requirements. Animal keepers, for example, have a duty of care and are expected to take reasonable steps to meet animal welfare conditions, including actions necessary to deal with the impact of animal movement restrictions.

Please note there is no relaxation of the rules in relation to the keeping of records and reporting of livestock births, deaths and movements to BCMS or movements to relevant local authority.

If you are unable to meet any of the requirements or standards because of the FMD restrictions, you will not normally be liable for sanctions under this regime. However in terms of some standards e.g. Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) 9 - Overgrazing and unsuitable supplementary feeding, you may need to record the damage and follow up with the appropriate remedial action in due course. Damage to soil structure through poaching should be recorded on page 25 of your Soil Protection Review. For further advice, please contact the Cross Compliance advice line on 0845 345 1302 or visit www.crosscompliance.org.uk.

3. RPA Inspections

RPA is continuing to conduct inspections outside the Protection and Surveillance Zones. In doing so, inspectors undertake rigorous biosecurity procedures on all visits, preparing fresh solutions, fully disinfecting when they enter and leave farm premises and safely disposing of used disinfectant on each site at the end of each inspection.

If an individual farmer is seriously concerned about an inspection because of biosecurity, RPA will consider those concerns in the light of the particular circumstances.

Ian Fugler
National Incident Director, Natural England

Ray Anderson
Policy Director, Rural Payments Agency

For further information, please contact: Natural England Enquiry Service, tel 0845 600 3078.