The CLA today said many of its members have been hit by devastating flood damage and now fear Government budget cuts have potentially left them legally liable for repair work on neighbouring properties.
CLA member Stephen Watkins currently has 250 acres of arable farmland under water and believes the idea of landowners being liable for flood defences is appalling.
Mr Watkins, of Seven Stoke, Worcester said: “It is absolutely horrifying that landowners may be liable for private nuisance claims if neighbours are hit by flooding.
“We accept the risk of being on a flood plane but the lack of maintenance of waterways is the big issue. If this were carried out efficiently, less money would need to be spent on flood defences.
“If we try to carry out maintenance ourselves to help prevent flooding, we are chastised for it. If neighbouring land floods due to the defences failing on our land, we may be liable. It feels like we are getting stick from all directions.”
For the last three weeks, more than 200 acres of CLA member Charlie Ainge’s land have been underwater.
Mr Ainge, of Wedmore, Somerset, said: “If all watercourses were maintained as they should be, liability for flooding wouldn’t be an issue.
“Years of neglect of the watercourses by the Environment Agency has led to agricultural land flooding.
“The Government needs to see flooding as a priority rather than leaving the Environment Agency to be hung out to dry.”
Last month CLA member Hugh Drake’s property suffered severe damage when a total of 600 acres – including neighbouring land – was flooded due to a combination of a severe storm, seasonal high tides and a tidal surge.
Mr Drake, of Spilsby, Lincolnshire, said. “We currently have 600 acres of very good farmland growing sea weed!
“This farmland, on the western side of The Wash at Friskney, is some of the best in the country. This is extremely valuable land for growing food for the nation.”
The CLA said that despite predictions of more extreme weather to come, government cuts to flood defence jobs will leave farmland and communities unprotected. Landowners could be left to stump up the costs for flood defences themselves.
CLA Deputy President Ross Murray said: "Landowners must be able to carry out flood defence work where needed but not so as to create an unintended liability which would be both unfair and a disincentive for action
“The recent flooding has shown the importance of our flood defences, and it is crucial that, despite the planned cuts, the Environment Agency prioritises them.
“Defence of land is in the national interest and, in the face of these cuts, red tape must be reduced to allow farmers to protect it.”