Flooding is causing “destruction and financial stress” to farmers’ businesses and their homes, a major farming organisation has warned.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said it was calling on all political parties to set out their plans to protect farmland “from flooding which puts the country’s food security at risk”, following the “devastation caused by Storm Babet”.
The NFU has written an open letter calling on the Environment Agency to “deliver a proactive plan for the watercourses and flood defences it manages” and for the Government to “pay farmers and growers fairly” for the role they play “in protecting homes and businesses when rivers breach their banks”.
The letter also calls for changes to the Flood Defence Grant to ensure that “rural communities are not disadvantaged by the nature of smaller populations in comparison to urban communities”.
NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said: “Despite promises made during each catastrophic flooding event, repeated governments of all parties have failed to get to grips with the challenge of managing watercourses and flooding.
“With another storm forecast this week, we need to see plans come forward as a matter of urgency.”
He added: “I have been out to meet NFU members and have seen first-hand the destruction and financial stress caused by flooding to farmers’ businesses and their homes.”
David Armstrong, a farmer in Lincolnshire, said that some of his farm’s winter linseed and wheat crops had been “left underwater” by recent flooding.
The 62-year-old told the PA news agency that he now faced an effort to “preserve what crop we’ve got and redrill the areas which have been flooded”.
He said he thought that “we’re not as well prepared now as we’ve been in the past” for flooding and other extreme weather events, adding that there needed to be a “lot better maintenance” of rivers and watercourses.
The NFU represents more than 46,000 farming and growing businesses in England and Wales.
Storm Babet has left huge swathes of farmland underwater.
NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw (@ProagriLtd) is calling on the government to work with farmers to manage flooding to ensure we can continue producing food for the nation.
— National Farmers' Union (@NFUtweets) October 31, 2023
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was “conscious of the impact Storm Babet has had on the farming community”.
A spokesperson for Defra said: “Farmers are already eligible for support through the Flood Recovery Framework announced last week, including a grant of up to £2,500 as part of the Business Recovery Grant.
“The Government will also be introducing further natural flood management measures as part of the Environmental Land Management scheme next year to support flood mitigation.”
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We are acutely aware of the impacts flooding can have on farmers and the agriculture sector, and our teams are working hard on the ground to help people recover from the impacts of Storm Babet.
“Between April 2021 and April 2023 we have better protected around 148,000 hectares of agricultural land through our flooding investment programme.
“Working with farmers and landowners is also an important part of our Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy Roadmap up to 2026 which is supported by a wide range of partners, including the NFU.”