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Set-aside

66. An aspect which affects the availability of suitable land, which in turn may affect stocking density, is the interpretation of the rules of the set-aside scheme. Pig producers argue that in principle it should be possible to place pigs on land after the end of the set-aside period in August but before the end of the restriction period in mid-January. The problem occurs in the requirement that arable producers do not gain from the agricultural use of land that has been set-aside, the principle that is, of course, at the centre of the scheme.

67. Current set-aside rules require tenant farmers to change sites during January which is often the worst time of year for the movement, and thus the welfare, of pigs. During the winter months site conditions inevitably will be bad, especially as tractors will rut the site for the rest of the pig occupation. We suggest that these rules are reviewed to enable tenants to enter set-aside land in the autumn as currently practised by owner occupiers. In addition, the rules reduce the availability of suitable ground and encourage the use of non-grassland. This in turn may force producers to use land within the arable rotation, that does not have adequate ground cover, to the detriment of the pigs welfare.