NFU letter signed by 1,800 farmers calls for more action on flooding

Storms Babet and Ciarán have left vast areas of productive farmland under water
Storms Babet and Ciarán have left vast areas of productive farmland under water

Political leaders have been urged by nearly 1,800 farmers and growers to 'immediately' outline plans to protect agricultural businesses from flooding.

Farmers have signed an open letter calling on future governments to pay them fairly for the role they play in protecting nearby towns and villages when rivers breach their banks.

The letter also calls on the Environment Agency to deliver a proactive plan of management, as well as re-investment in the watercourses and flood defences it's responsible for.

It follows the recent devastation caused by Storms Babet and Ciarán which have left vast areas of productive farmland under water.

Farmers and growers have struggled to get crops out of the ground for this season, with many still unable to plant autumn crops for next year.

Of the farmers and growers who signed the NFU's open letter, around 1,000 said they had been directly impacted by flooding.

And with climate change one of industry's biggest challenges, they fear it's inevitable that storms will become more frequent and more powerful.

“In the past few weeks we have once more seen hundreds of farms across the country face the devastation of flooding and the huge financial stress and misery that brings," said NFU deputy president, Tom Bradshaw.

“It stems from a failure to get to grips with the challenges of managing watercourses and improving and maintaining our flood defences.

"Many farmers play a crucial role protecting nearby towns and villages from flooding by holding water on their land but with ruined crops uninsurable and huge clear up costs, farmers must be fairly rewarded for this public good they provide."

The open letter says that flood storage is often provided at great cost to the farmer or landowner to protect surrounding urban areas.

It calls on farmers to be fairly paid for delivering this service, with agreements put in place that allows them to plan for it and ensure recovery procedures are in place.

The letter's signatories are also calling for changes to the Flood Defence Grant in Aid cost-benefit analysis, as the way that funding for flood defences is currently allocated leaves rural areas at a higher risk than urban ones.

Mr Bradhsaw added: “We need to see political parties deliver solutions to mitigate the impact of flooding of farmland to ensure farmers can continue producing food for the nation."

The open letter has been sent to Defra Secretary Steve Barclay, Shadow Defra Secretary Steve Reed, and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Rural Affairs Tim Farron.