Farmers Demand Increased Investment in Rural River Defences After Flooding

Farmers affected by recent flooding caused by Storm Henk are urging the government to allocate more resources to river defences in rural areas. The persistent wet weather over the holiday season has exacerbated the damage previously inflicted by storms Babet and Ciaran. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is calling for compensation for farmers who intentionally let fields flood to safeguard towns.

Thousands of acres of crops and productive farmland are submerged in rainwater, prompting concerns about the impact on UK food production. Farmers argue that a greater focus on river defences is essential to protecting agricultural land from future flooding incidents.

Ollie Stobo, a third-generation tenant farmer in Oxfordshire, has faced flooding for the seventh time in two years. Approximately a tenth of his 500-acre farm is currently underwater due to the overflowing River Evenlode. Stobo emphasises the need for practical solutions and compensation for affected farmers.

While some local farmers work on environmental schemes to manage floodwaters, there is a broader call for strategic investments in defences to safeguard both rural and urban communities. The NFU, represented by deputy president Tom Bradshaw, stresses the immediate need for direct assistance to alleviate the financial stress and challenges posed by flooding.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay is expected to announce improvements to the post-Brexit farming payment scheme, Environmental Land Management Schemes (Elms), at the Oxford Farming Conference. The announcement may also include plans to use food labelling to indicate when imported products fail to meet UK welfare standards, allowing consumers to support British farmers.

The NFU underscores the vulnerability of farmers and rural communities to the current allocation of funding for flood defences, urging the government to prioritise domestic food production. While the “Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra)” acknowledges the impact of extreme weather on farmers, farmers are seeking urgent and tangible solutions to mitigate the recurrent impact of flooding on farmland.

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