Flooding advice for farmers and land managers
This guidance gives information for farmers and land managers whose land has been flooded.
This guidance is general advice for any farmer and land manager whose land has been flooded. It is not specific to any individual flooding event.
The guidance below covers the following schemes and services:
- Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)
- Countryside Stewardship (CS)
- Environmental Stewardship (ES)
- Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)
- Farm Woodland Premium/English Woodland Grant Scheme
- Reporting animal movements
- Cross compliance.
If you think the flooding will affect your ability to meet your agreement requirements or change the area eligible for a scheme in place you should contact us, using the details below, at the earliest opportunity. Please provide us with detail about the flooding issue including the date and time the flooding occurred.
Temporary changes and minor change requests
Flooded agricultural land is still eligible for BPS, and may not affect land in a CS and/or ES agreement, if the flooding is temporary and the land would otherwise still be available for agricultural activity. Please write to us and provide further detail to allow us to assess eligibility.
You should return the land to agricultural use as soon as practically possible and continue to meet the scheme rules or requirements of agreement options on the affected land parcels.
Where flooding means that you cannot temporarily manage your agreement according to the CS or ES option requirements, you can request a minor and temporary adjustment to those requirements.
Read more information about this for Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship.
Once you have filled in the form, you can either post the form to us or you can scan it then email it to us using the subject title ‘Adjustment Request’, the scheme you need to request an adjustment for and your Agreement Number.
Permanent changes and force majeure requests
Where the impact of flooding is more serious and permanent, you should notify us and consider requesting force majeure. This is where you are unable to meet scheme requirements or agreement obligations due to exceptional and unforeseeable circumstances outside your control.
For BPS, the impact could be regarded as more serious and permanent if the land can no longer be considered as ‘eligible’ for BPS and no longer meets the land eligibility criteria. For example, if a stretch of river bank and part of the land parcel has been washed away and the boundary of the field subsequently moved, then the area washed away would be a permanent change. Another example would be where stone or debris is covering eligible land and making that land ineligible.
For ES and CS, the impact may result in a permanent change to the agreement land and/or land features meaning that you can no longer manage the land according to the requirements of the options in your agreement. For example, a hedgerow or newly created woodland that is part of your CS or ES agreement has been destroyed, or as above, part of a land parcel may have been washed away.
Where flooding changes your land permanently, you should check whether you need to make corresponding changes to your digital maps (see our guidance on how to make such changes) and it is important you let us know if this will change the areas able to be managed under ES, CS or a Woodland scheme, or change the BPS eligible area.
How to request force majeure
For BPS 2022 applications, and CS agreements starting from 1 January 2021, you must email or write to us using the subject title ‘Flooding 2022’, your SBI and for CS, your agreement numbers. You must send your email or letter within 8 weeks of being in a position to do so. This means within 8 weeks of the time you realise that you cannot meet any of the scheme requirements or agreement obligations. It is not necessarily 8 weeks from the force majeure event itself.
For requests concerning ES agreements, and CS agreements starting before 1 January 2021, you must send your email or letter within 15 working days of being in a position to do so.
You will need to prove that, despite taking every care that could have been expected of you, the exceptional circumstances prevented you from meeting your obligations.
Your evidence should include details of the actions taken with an explanation of the events and the dates they occurred.
Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)
Rather than force majeure, ‘good reasons’ apply to the SFI Pilot scheme. Where there is a change in your circumstances or your land is affected, you will need to contact
RPA. For more information, read the SFI Pilot’s terms and conditions
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) land
If SSSI land is affected and you need to carry out remedial work/boundary repairs, you may need consent from Natural England before you start any work. Use a Notice form that you can find on GOV.UK.
Where you need to carry out emergency works you can do this without Natural England’s consent. However, you must notify Natural England and include details of the emergency as soon as you can.
Reporting animal movements
Where livestock are at risk from rising flood waters, as an animal keeper you must move them to a safe location as soon as possible, providing it is safe to do so.
For cattle keepers, you may not be able to report cattle births, movements to another holding and deaths within regulatory deadlines and this may affect cross compliance. You should update your farm records and report your animal births, movements, and deaths as soon as possible.
If you have any problems, keepers in England should contact BCMS on 0345 050 1234, keepers in Wales should call 0345 050 3456, and keepers in Scotland should contact ScotEID on 01466 794323.
For sheep, goat and pig keepers, where it has been necessary for you to move the animals to land on another holding, you may not be able to complete the movement documents normally required before moving the animals. You should update your records with details of the movement and complete the movement documents as soon as possible.
If you have already moved or still need to move your livestock inside the 6 day standstill period, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will licence these moves. You should contact APHA on 03000 200 301.
Unregistered calves and cattle under restrictions
You may need to move cattle when some or all of them are very young unregistered calves that don’t have a passport, or are under one of the following restrictions.
- Individual Movement Restriction (CPP 27)
- Whole Herd Movement Restriction (CPP 28)
- Notice to Identify (CPP 30)
- Notice of Registration (CPP 35).
If you’re moving them to a safe location that is part of the same holding, you do not need to notify BCMS or ScotEID because no movement has taken place off the holding.
If the safe location is on a different holding, you should ask for a movement licence, which will be backdated to the movement date, as soon as possible after the animals have been moved. To do this, keepers in England should contact BCMS on 0345 050 1234, keepers in Wales should call 0345 050 3456, and keepers in Scotland should contact ScotEID on 01466 794323.
If the animals without passports are very young calves and ear tags have not yet been fitted, you do not need to fit ear tags before the calves are moved.
You should keep movement licences with your on-farm herd records and update those records with movement details as soon as possible.
Once the flooding has subsided and you can return animals to the original holding, you will need to request a further movement licence by calling BCMS, or ScotEID – you will need to give the reference number of the original movement licence. This second licence will only allow you to move the animals back to the holding they came from.
TB testing delays
You should tell APHA that you have not or cannot complete your TB test due to flooding. No cross compliance action will be taken.
We will postpone any scheduled inspections in affected areas until the situation eases.
Other cross compliance requirements
For there to be a breach of cross compliance, you must be directly responsible for any action or inaction that caused the breach.
Therefore, any cross-compliance breaches caused by flooding will not be considered as breaches as they are not the result of any action or inaction you have taken. For example, where landscape features protected by Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs) such as stone walls or hedgerows are washed away or Public Rights of Way have become obstructed.
You are also exempt from the rules where any action is carried out by a statutory body acting under its statutory authority. For example, utility companies carrying out electricity, water, gas or highway works.
Many of the GAECs already include exemptions that allow works to be carried out in emergency situations. For example, cutting or trimming trees where they are damaged and are a risk to people.
You are also exempt from a GAEC rule in the following circumstances.
- There is a risk to human or animal health or safety
- It is necessary to control or treat serious causes of harm to plant health
- It is necessary to prevent or treat serious pest or weed infestations.
You do not need to write to us to ask for an exemption.
We can grant derogations where work is to be carried out for the following reasons.
- It would enhance the environment
- It relates to livestock or crop production
- It would improve public or agricultural access.
You must apply to us in writing for a derogation. You must wait for written permission before carrying out any works.
If you are concerned about a breach of the cross compliance rules that’s out of your control, you should keep a record of it. Use photos and/or a written record of the issues. You can show these if you are inspected at a later date, so we can see how you were affected.
If any of the above-mentioned ‘directly attributable’ provisions, exemptions and derogations do not apply in the case of a cross compliance breach, we can consider cases where ‘force majeure’ or exceptional circumstances prevented you from meeting cross compliance rules.
Farm Woodland Premium/English Woodland Grant Scheme
If you have concerns about a grant scheme that is administered by the Forestry Commission rather than by the Rural Payments Agency, contact them directly using the relevant dedicated mailbox. If you’re not sure what that is, email the Forestry Commission.
Fallen trees and felling licence
You do not need a felling licence to fell a dangerous tree or remove a fallen tree.
You should gather evidence that supports your decision that the tree was an imminent danger. If possible, you should take photos (with reference to scale) that show the tree setting and condition before and after felling or if fallen. Other forms of evidence might include maps, site surveys or reports and, importantly, a record that confirms when tree felling took place.
For information on the felling licence process, please see Felling licence: getting permission.
Email email@example.com or write to us at:
Rural Payments Agency
PO Box 352
Call us on 03000 200 301
Edited 'How to request force majeure', changing CS agreements starting from 1 January 2021, rather than 1 January 2022.
Reviewed in 2022 and minor changes made.
Updates to 'Reporting animal movements' in Scotland.
Updates to the following sections: Temporary changes and minor change requests; Permanent changes and force majeure requests; Reporting animal movements.
Updated to include a link to further information about Claiming BPS 2020 and greening payments in extreme weather.
Update to introduction to clarify that the guidance is general advice for farmers and land managers whose land has been flooded. It is not specific to any individual flooding event.
Update to Force Majeure section as Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship agreement holders have 8 weeks to contact RPA about cases of Force Majeure.
Added information relating to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme.
Edited ‘How to request force majeure’, changing CS agreements starting from 1 January 2021, rather than 1 January 2022.
Reviewed in 2022 and minor changes made.