Defra expands Farming Recovery Fund for flood-hit farmers

The government has unveiled greater support for farm businesses after period of record wet weather (Photo: NFU)
The government has unveiled greater support for farm businesses after period of record wet weather (Photo: NFU)

Defra has announced further support for farmers hit by flooding and wet weather, with £50mn to be issued as part of the now expanded Farming Recovery Fund.

New eligibility criteria opens up the scheme to thousands more farmers who have suffered significant damage to their land as a result of prolonged and extreme wet weather.

Farmers whose land has been severely affected, and who are likely to need to do work to remediate land to make it possible to farm it in future, will be eligible. Defra said payments will be made this summer.

The Farming Recovery Fund originally opened in April, providing grants between £500 - £25,000 for farmers to return their land to the condition it was in before flooding due to Storm Henk.

Following anger at the initial eligibility of the scheme, it was updated to remove the 150 metre limit on land flooded by a river, thus including all flooded land near to an eligible river.

Now it has been expanded to include a wider geographical area of farmers who suffered river flooding, including those who experienced damage due to extreme rainfall.

Defra said the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will identify farmers who are eligible for the payment and contact them with payments expected to be made to eligible farmers this summer.

A Defra spokesperson said: "This is an exceptional, one-off intervention to respond to the exceptionally wet conditions affecting farming this winter and spring, and in the context of the agricultural transition."

The government said it is also bringing forward the second instalment of this year’s delinked payment, which will now be paid from September.

This will follow the first instalment, which is due to be paid from 1 August.

It comes after the wettest 18 months since 1836 which have left vast swathes of agricultural land saturated and, in many cases, still under water.

Many arable farmers have been unable to plant crops and have lost those that were in the ground, while livestock farmers have endured a difficult lambing season.

A recent survey highlighted the toll this has taken on farm business confidence, which has hit an all-time low across England and Wales.

Responding to the new support, NFU President Tom Bradshaw said it was 'really good news' that the government had listened to farmers' calls for additional financial support.

"These measures will provide some critical relief to many member businesses which have been facing a very uncertain future because of exceptional cashflow pressures.

“The measures announced today will not solve all the issues we’re facing on farm, but I am confident they will go some way to lifting some of the immediate strain on family farms.”