THE new General Licences need to be fit for purpose and more accessible for farmers, the National Farmers' Union has told the Government.

The call for action comes as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) consultation on the long-term future of the licences draws to a close.

With temporary measures expiring in February, the NFU’s said its request is based on evidence collected from its members, that showed how the current system prevents damage to crops costing thousands along with attacks by crows on livestock, particularly lambs.

NFU director general, Terry Jones, said: “What is clear from this evidence is that without a means for farmers to control pest birds, there can be devastating impacts on both crops and livestock.”

Mr Jones said that the farming sector saw these impacts earlier in the year after licences were abruptly revoked after a legal challenge by wildlife protection organisation Wild Justice.

“Farmers do not want to see a repeat situation in the future,” he said. “We are clear that farmers across the country need effective General Licences that are fit-for-purpose and simple to use. We do not believe that individual licences are the answer and we are urging Defra to introduce a new system that reflects the important role they play in farmers providing food for the nation.

“Results from our members show that the use of alternatives to lethal control is near universal but they work best alongside powers under General Licences.

“We do recognise the need to be more open about what non-lethal measures farmers are taking and believe this can be incorporated into a new system with a requirement for better record-keeping. We will engage with both Defra and Natural England in the development of the new regime and continue to raise the importance of these licences.”