The Management of Hedgerows (England) Regulations 2024 has now been passed by parliament and now puts the baseline hedgerow management into law, providing a consistent approach for all people operating on agricultural land. 

The management regulations includes:

  • A 2-metre buffer strip, measured from the centre of a hedgerow, where a green cover must be established and maintained. Also, no cultivation or the application of pesticides or fertilisers should take place within this buffer strip. 
  • A hedgerow cutting ban from 1 March to 31 August (inclusive). 

These practices will be subject to exemptions and derogations as set out in the legislation. They broadly mirror the previous approach under cross compliance. This will make it straightforward for farmers and others who are familiar with the requirements.   

The regulations will be enforced by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), in a fair and proportionate way and they have been talking to farmers and others about the best approaches. From day one, they will take an advice-led approach, with stronger actions in only the worst cases.


SFI OFfer 2024

Details were recently published of this year’s Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) offer along with information on Countryside Stewardship (CS) Higher Tier and how those with existing agreement can benefit.

Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier options have been improved and incorporated into SFI as actions. This will make it simpler, easier and faster to manage your agreement. It means that you'll have more choice and the flexibility of SFI with the breadth and scale of Mid Tier, just with less paperwork. 

The 102 actions comprise:  

  • 22 of the existing actions (2 actions merged) 
  • 23 new actions, including on precision farming, moorland, flood and water management, agroforestry and no till
  • 57 improved versions of actions previously offered through CS Mid Tier 

The RPA will start inviting people to apply in June, through a controlled rollout as per previous years. The expanded offer will be available to most farmers by the end of July. If you want to apply for the expanded SFI offer, the first step is to register your interest with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). They will contact you and invite you to apply. 

The following four options will also now be subject to the 25% limit, this brings the limited actions up to 10 actions:

  • WBD3: In-field grass strips  
  • AHW9: Unharvested cereal headland 
  • AHW1: Bumblebird mix  
  • AHW11: Cultivated areas for arable plants

The RPA are also reviewing capping an additional four actions and will confirm in July if they will be limited depending on a review of uptake:

  • AHW3: Beetle banks  
  • AHW5: Nesting plots for lapwing  
  • AHW12: Manage woodland edges on arable land  
  • SCR1: Create scrub and open habitat mosaics 

Existing SFI Agreement holders

If you already have an SFI or Mid Tier agreement in place, you can make the most of the new actions straight away by taking out an additional, new agreement as long as the actions are compatible and the RPA are not paying you for the same actions twice. The online application system will show you what actions are available on your land.