NFU calls for strategy to deal with flooding on productive farmland

The farming community has been impacted with hundreds of acres of productive farmland under water
The farming community has been impacted with hundreds of acres of productive farmland under water

With Storm Babet leaving vast areas of farmland underwater, the NFU is demanding government 'matches its talk' about the importance of UK food security with action on water management.

As more heavy rain is forecast this week and river levels still to peak in some areas, the NFU said a comprehensive water management strategy was urgently needed.

This would improve flood resilience, including adequate investment, so Britain’s farmers and growers can continue producing the nation’s food, it said.

Many farmers and growers are now seeing next year’s crops rotting underwater after a devastatingly wet 2023 harvest.

At the same time, this was the most expensive crop ever grown due to inflation and saw yields tumble.

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said the union was seeing 'desperate scenes' across the country with many areas experiencing flooding.

“The farming community too has been impacted with hundreds of acres of productive farmland under water and land that’s now inaccessible.

"We’re hearing desperate stories from many of our members who are struggling to get crops out of the ground from this season or are still to plant autumn crops for next year.

"Those crops that are in the ground are likely to rot meaning the output and profitability of next year’s harvest is already seriously compromised, building on an unprecedented year in terms of weather and cost."

The NFU said it was a 'perfect storm' with farmers and growers now facing further financial burdens at a time when on-farm costs were already running high and government support payments phased out.

It has called for a comprehensive water management strategy to set out how farmers could collaborate better with government, as well as local authorities, water companies and Environment Agency.

A strategy that prioritises food security recognising that domestic food production was part of the critical national infrastructure, the NFU explained.

Central to this would be significant investment with ambitious upgrades of ageing rural flood defences, drainage and waterways as well as regular maintenance.

Mr Bradshaw said: “Despite what we’ve heard from government in recent times about the importance of UK food security, this just isn’t being reflected in policies on how the nation’s food production is valued, and how water infrastructure is managed.

“Farming is on the front line of climate change and the sector is experiencing volatility and severe weather events more often.

"It’s why we absolutely need a long-term plan to improve how we manage water in times of flood and drought, as we regularly experience both on an annual basis, and both severely impact our ability to produce food."