The UFU would like to remind members on the rules around hedge cutting.
Cross-compliance rules are in place to protect hedges and particularly to protect birds nesting in hedges by preventing the cutting of hedges between 1 March and 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.
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.
Another exception introduced in 2015 helps farmers wishing to plant oilseed rape or reseed grasses or other herbaceous forage (clovers, Lucerne, sainfoin and forage vetches) on arable land by allowing limited flexibility to trim hedges from 15th August. Written permission is required from DAERA before trimming commences otherwise this will be considered a breach of cross-compliance. Farmers can request an application form from DAERA on 0300 200 7842 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to this, farmers must still comply with the Wildlife and Natural Environment (NI) Act 2011.
Anyone interested in using this derogation must submit the application form to DAERA at least 10 working days before the proposed hedge cutting date. It is vital that farmers make the checks to ensure there are no nesting birds in the hedges to be cut. If there is evidence that nesting birds have been disturbed it will be considered a breach of cross-compliance even if a derogation has been granted.