The Ulster Farmers’ Union is reminding members of the rules around hedge cutting during the summer months.
Cross-compliance rules are in place to protect this important landscape feature and particularly to protect birds nesting in hedges by preventing the cutting of hedges between 1 March - 31 August.
The Wildlife and Natural Environment (NI) Act 2011 also protects nesting birds and it is an offence under this legislation to disturb nesting birds, their chicks, nests or eggs at any time of the year.
In addition to hedge cutting, the 1 March - 31 August closed period, also applies to tree or scrub cutting and the coppicing of hedges. The UFU would remind farmers to comply with these rules to ensure that payments from the various schemes administered by DAERA are protected as breaches of these rules could result in cross-compliance penalties being applied. It should also be noted that hedgerow trees with a trunk diameter greater than 100cm, may only be removed with prior permission from DAERA and permission is also required for the removal of hedges.
There are some exceptions to the hedge cutting closed period. Hedge cutting is permitted within the closed period where health and safety is an issue e.g. along some roadside hedges or if there is an animal welfare reason.
Hedges are also essential for the survival of pollinators, providing food, shelter and transport corridors for these insects.
The UFU supports the ‘All Ireland Pollinator Plan’ which has useful guidance on managing farmland to support bees. There are many simple actions that farmers can take, including leaving hedge cutting to the autumn, to improve pollinator habitats which will have minimal impact on production. More information on how farmers can help pollinators is available at www.pollinators.ie.