NFU supports reinstatement of general licences

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has welcomed Defra’s move to issue three new general licences to help landowners protect lambs and arable crops.

The licences – GL34, 35 and 36 – will be valid until February 29 next year and give Defra time to review longer-term general licensing arrangements.

Natural England revoked previous licences earlier this year.

A public consultation is due to be launched before the end of the summer. NFU Deputy President Guy Smith said: “Since the withdrawal of the general licences in April the NFU has been campaigning for their reinstatement, supported by our members who have shared experiences and images of the horrendous impacts crows can have on lambs and pigeons on arable crops. To help farmers understand what the licences cover, the NFU has prepared a briefing

“Hundreds of NFU members submitted evidence to help form the organisation’s response to Defra’s call for evidence on the impact the withdrawal had on farm businesses.

“The important role general licences play for farmers cannot be understated.

“When they were removed, the impact pigeons and crows had on crops and livestock was devastating and we are continuing to hear that farmers are having other issues, for example rooks damaging spring barley. It is vital that farmers have the ability to control these birds.”

Mr Green added: “The NFU made its case to the highest levels of Defra and to the Secretary of State and stressed that rectifying this situation had to be a priority. I am pleased that Defra has taken this on board and delivered on much of our feedback.

“It is positive for farmers that the licences once again include species such as rooks and magpies, and it would appear that the new licences seem to be practical and fit for purpose for our members.

“However, we do see the potential confusion for farmers who control birds in or near protected sites. In this situation, they may have to rely on other licences and it is imperative that the licensing system is clear, unambiguous and farmers have the tools they require to carry out control.

“While this is good news, there is still much more work to be done as Defra consults on a new general licences regime for 2020 and beyond.”

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