Flood Funding Needs to Recognise Value of Agriculture18 June 2014
UK - The National Farmers Union is calling for Defra to act on the recommendations of the Efra Select Committee’s report into this winter’s flooding which severely hit farmland across England and Wales.
The report highlights the importance of watercourse and coastal defence maintenance and concerns that funding for maintenance “is at a bare minimum” and “the first thing to be cut” when budgets are tight.
NFU Deputy President Minette Batters said: “Future Government policy must ensure that farmland is prioritised in flood risk management. We are therefore pleased that the Efra Committee has called for Defra to revisit its flood funding policy to recognise the economic and social value of farming and agricultural land and ensure there is sufficient investment in maintenance work.”
In a video blog produced by the NFU, mixed arable farmer John Hebditch, who farms on the Somerset Levels, said: “We understand that we need to allow some flooding on Curry Moor to protect Taunton and Wellington but that sacrifice shouldn’t and needn’t be long and drawn out or to the depth and extent we saw this winter. If we can accept water quickly onto the moor, it needs to be taken away quickly so our livelihoods and landscape aren’t overly compromised. It is this balance we have lost in recent years and needs to be returned through dredging and better water level management.”
NFU flooding adviser Ian Moodie said: “There is a strong need for maintenance priorities to reflect local circumstances, and as the Efra Committee says, dredging should be part of a portfolio of measures, but not seen as the only solution. Land drainage activities must not be undervalued where they underpin local water level management such as in the Fens or Somerset Levels.
“To make use of the local knowledge of farmers we need Defra and the Environment Agency to reduce regulation to make it easier for farmers to de-silt main rivers if they choose to while still protecting the environment, and at the same utilise the local expertise of Internal Drainage Boards”
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