There have been concerns over the impact of grazing livestock on semi-natural habitat. As a consequence, the Government has introduced cross-compliance requirements to reduce the effects of overgrazing and unsuitable supplementary feeding. In the worst cases, some support payments may be withheld.
Overgrazing – grazing an area of land with so many animals that it causes damage to semi-natural or natural vegetation.
Unsuitable supplementary feeding – causing damage to semi-natural or natural vegetation by feeding livestock or by transporting feed.
Natural or semi-natural vegetation – plant species that are typical of the local area, that are self-seeded or spread through their own means. Re-seeded or agriculturally improved land is not affected by these controls.
Since the 1980s there have been concerns about the adverse impacts that grazing livestock can have on natural and semi-natural vegetation. As a consequence, in 1994, the Government introduced a number of environmental provisions to address these issues.
These measures form part of the Cross Compliance conditions GAEC 9: Overgrazing and Unsuitable Supplementary Feeding attached to the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). The measures are also required under the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).
People claiming Single Payment Scheme or RDPE money must not overgraze or conduct unsuitable supplementary feeding, under the cross-compliance controls attached to these schemes.
Natural England is responsible for the assessment of both grazing and supplementary feeding controls under Cross Compliance and Good Farming Practice legislation. This work is carried out on behalf of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).
On receiving a complaint that an area is overgrazed or unsuitable supplementary feeding is taking place, the site is visited to see whether the vegetation is natural/semi-natural, or agriculturally improved, and to judge whether overgrazing or unsuitable supplementary feeding is likely to be happening.
To avoid overgrazing on areas of natural or semi-natural vegetation the following guidelines should be used.