Two-thirds of livestock farmers are still experiencing, or expect to experience, a shortage of forage and fodder supplies as a result of growing conditions in 2018, according to an NFU survey.
Farmers were asked about the potential impact on farms if they receive only 75% of long-term average rainfall during the 2019 growing season – the prospect for which is currently described as a ‘reasonable worse-case scenario’.
Of the farmers experiencing continued problems, two-thirds of them have been able to extend the growing season, two-thirds have needed to buy in fodder, and half of them have sold off livestock.
The survey results emerge as the Environment Agency said that within 25 years England will not have enough water to meet demand.
The combined impact of climate change and population growth means that the UK faces an ‘existential threat’.
The agency said it wants to see wasting water become ‘as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby’.
The NFU survey indicates that farmers are not waiting for long-term climate change to bite, but are already contingency planning to meet short-term risks of water scarcity.
The survey results among members who use crop irrigation show the range and scale of measures being put in place to mitigate against drought risk:
• A third of irrigated crop growers are making changes to the types of crops grown
• A quarter are reducing the planted area of particular crop types
• A half are investing in new irrigation equipment to increase efficiency and optimum use
• A fifth are investing in new or additional reservoir storage capacity
• One-sixth are exploring opportunities for trading (of water and/or land with water rights)
• One-sixth of farmers were not taking any particular measures to manage risk of water shortage.
NFU Vice President, Stuart Roberts said: “Farmers bear the brunt of the impacts of extreme weather, and climate change predictions indicate that events like last summer’s drought, as well as the flooding of agricultural land, are likely to become more frequent in the years to come.
“We all have a role to play in managing water as a resource, however the question remains – why are we jeopardising our nation’s food security so that members of the public can wash their cars?”