The government has relaxed agri-environment scheme rules to make it easier for farmers facing lack of rain to provide feed for livestock.
Special measures allow countryside stewardship or environmental stewardship agreement holders to take steps such as cutting or grazing additional areas of land – including AB15 – to ease shortages of bedding, fodder, grazing or forage crops.
The changes will last until the end of 2022. They aim to ease the pressure on silage stocks with farmers feeding winter supplies to livestock now, instead of saving them for the coming months.
Defra secretary George Eustice said: ”We are better prepared than ever before for these unprecedented dry conditions, but many farmers are concerned about water supplies and the impact on their crops and livestock.
“We are therefore introducing temporary easements on agri-environment schemes to give them the flexibility to respond.”
The announcement came as the Environment Agency declared drought status for large parts of the country, including East Anglia, the East Midlands, central England, the south-west and south-east.