28/02/2013 16:54

The Farmers' Union of Wales today slammed the Welsh Government's rejection of its request to extend the deadline for hedge trimming despite one of the wettest years in history making access to fields dangerous and damaging over recent months.


In its representations to deputy agriculture minister Alun Davies, the union highlighted the record breaking rainfalls over the past 12 months and requested a derogation from the rules which prohibits hedge trimming from tomorrow (March 1).


But in response the Welsh Government merely reiterated the rules regarding the March 1 deadline and the fact that farmers could apply to their Welsh Government Divisional Offices for exemptions in certain circumstances, judged on a case-by-case basis.


FUW president Emyr Jones said regular hedge trimming was an important management tool for farmers to keep hedges stock-proof and dense enough to provide valuable shelter for wildlife.


"Farmers prefer to trim hedges early in the year but the unprecedented weather conditions over the past 12 months meant it was impossible to get hedge trimming equipment onto many fields without compromising the health and safety of the operator or damaging land.


"We had requested a derogation from the deadline to allow farmers to catch up with hedge trimming operations, but the Welsh Government has ignored our request.


"It is shocking and disappointing to say the least that the exceptional circumstances acknowledged by everyone, including the Met Office, are being treated as the norm by the Welsh Government."


Mr Jones said the decision gave out a message of indifference to the needs of the industry and ignorance regarding the severe impact that record levels of rainfall have had on agriculture over the past year.


"The Welsh Government seems to be under the impression that it has been possible to catch up for months of lost work during a few days of dry weather, but for those who work outdoors the reality is very different.


"Even when snows have melted and access to land has been safe and practicable, the backlog of work amongst contractors means it has been impossible for them to service everyone's requirements."


Mr Jones said that many areas of land which had thawed out remained as wet and unsafe as ever.


"This decision leaves large numbers of farmers in an impossible position and I would urge all those who are affected to contact their divisional offices to highlight their needs."