As far as the definition of a hedge is concerned, there are no maximum or minimum width or height limits but the hedge must be more than 20m long and there must be less than 2m from the ground to the lowest leaves. Gaps of up to 20m, including gateways are allowed in hedges.
However, not all hedges will qualify as an EFA. It is only those hedges which are on or adjacent to arable land in the farmer’s control that will qualify although hedges which are separated from the arable land by an ineligible feature under the BPS rules, such as a ditch of more than 2m wide or a hard track will not qualify.If the hedge is separated from the arable land by a fence only the hedge will qualify.
If the farmer is responsible for farming both sides of the hedge, even if one side is in permanent pasture, then the full 10 sqm per m length of hedge can be claimed but if the other side of the hedge is farmed by another farmer then only 5 sqm can be claimed. If the other side of the hedge is a road, the farmer can make a full claim.
Finally DEFRA had originally stated that using hedges to contribute to a farmer’s EFA requirements may result in a delay in the farmer receiving payment of the BPS in 2015. However, DEFRA have now said there may not be delays as they are looking into an ‘approach’ to prevent this. What this will be we do not know but it seems DEFRA are backtracking a little on their previous warning.
Therefore, although there is still plenty of work to be done before the first BPS claims can be made next year, some of the crucial detail is beginning to become clear.