Dry weather impacts on agri-environment agreements

28 October 2022

An close up image of grass during dry weather conditions

Find out what you need to do if you are looking for flexibility to cut or graze options or if you cannot meet the requirements of your agri-environment agreement due to adverse weather conditions.

Requirements and timelines do vary by scheme. We've outlined below the actions you need to take if you are in this situation.

You can find more advice about dealing with extreme heat at the Gov.uk website: Extreme heat advice for farmers and land managers.

CS (Countryside Stewardship) and ES (Environmental Stewardship)

The RPA (Rural Payments Agency) initially introduced temporary adjustments to some CS (Countryside Stewardship) and ES (Environmental Stewardship) options on 17 August 2022 to help farmers deal with the effects of the dry weather. Since then, further adjustments to establishment dates and information on establishment issues have been added. The NFU lobbied for these adjustments which will help to ease shortages of bedding, fodder, grazing and forage crops.

A list of the options with temporary adjustments can be found at GOV.UK | Hot and dry weather: temporary support for farmers in 2022. There are multiple options with adjustments, including:

  • AB1 (nectar flower mix)
  • AB15 (two year legume fallow)
  • GS2 (permanent grassland with very low inputs outside SDA)
  • SW1 (4-6m buffer strip on cultivated land)
  • OP1 (overwintered stubble)

These adjustments generally apply from 17 August to 31 December 2022. From 1 January 2023 all options will revert to their original requirements, unless otherwise stated in the option list.

If you decide to go ahead with a temporary adjustment, you will need to download and fill in the minor and temporary requirement adjustments form. You do not need to return it to the RPA but must keep this form for your records as this may be requested in the future. The RPA has confirmed that temporary adjustments will not affect any payments you receive under your agri-environment scheme agreement.

Where AB9 (winter bird food) and/or OP2 (wild bird seed mixture) failed to establish in Spring due to the dry weather, the RPA has confirmed that if the recommended management actions have been followed you will still be paid for this option and don’t need to re-establish the option this year. You will need to fill in the MTA form and submit this to the RPA.

Minor and temporary adjustments

If you cannot meet the requirements for an option which is not on the list at GOV.UK | Hot and dry weather: temporary support for farmers in 2022, you can request an MTA minor and temporary adjustment to those requirements by completing the Minor and temporary adjustment form (GOV.UK)

Permanent changes and force majeure requests

If the impact is more serious, you could consider requesting force majeure. This is where you cannot meet scheme requirements due to exceptional and unforeseen circumstances outside your control.

If this is the case, you should contact the RPA.

CS agreements from 2021 onwards – as the agreement holder, you must notify the RPA of permanent changes and force majeure in writing within 8 weeks of such an event which prevents you from managing according to your agreement.

CS agreements up to and including 2020 – as the agreement holder, you must notify the RPA of permanent changes and force majeure in writing within 15 working days of being in a position to do so of such an event which prevents you from managing according to your agreement.

ES agreements – ES agreement holders must inform the RPA of a ‘force majeure’ situation in writing within 15 working days of being in a position to do so of the event. Once the RPA has received your MTA or ‘force majeure’ application, it will advise you of the next steps to take and any impact on your current claim.

More information

More information on how to deal with difficulties arising from unusual weather affecting CS and ES agreements is available at GOV.UK | Extreme heat advice for farmers and land managers.

SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive) scheme

If you are taking part in either the SFI pilot or the SFI 2022 scheme, you will need to contact the RPA to notify it of any issues relating to the current adverse weather conditions, such as your subsequent inability to meet the terms of your agreement.

SFI pilot

Defra have notified pilot participants of temporary ‘easements’ available to deal with the impacts of draught. If you want to make use of these ‘easements’ you don’t need to notify RPA. You must keep a record in your journal.

If the easements don't cover your requirements then you will need to contact the RPA with specific details about the issues you are experiencing as per the ‘Reporting changes of circumstance’ section of the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot guidance.

As per the ‘Good reasons for a breach’ section of the Piloting the Sustainable Farming Incentive: monitoring guidance, you will need to notify the RPA within 8 weeks from when you are in a position to do so.    

SFI 2022

You will need to contact the RPA using the SFI query form (Gov.uk), with specific details of the issues you are experiencing. As per section 11.7 – ‘Good reasons for a breach of the Sustainable Farming Incentive: full guidance, there is an 8 week deadline to notify the RPA.    

Tree and Woodland Agreements

The Extraordinary Payments for Replanting in Exceptional Circumstances (EPREC) support package is available to help replace trees planted last winter (21/22) that have been lost due to this summer’s exceptionally hot and dry weather. It is available for a range of tree and woodland grants including the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO). More information on the EPREC can be found by visiting: GOV.UK | Hot and dry weather: temporary support for trees and woodland in 2022

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