Farmers ‘should be given priority’ for scarce water resources in East, says CLA

LANDOWNERS have called on the Government to ensure agriculture is given priority for scarce water resources to prevent food shortages.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which part in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA’s) drought summit to discuss areas hit by continued low winter rainfall today, demanded a fairer allocation of water for farmers across all drought-affected areas in England.

CLA President Harry Cotterell said: “Agriculture is under incredible pressure as a result of the lack of rain through the winter. Other sectors have statutory powers and priority over agriculture, but to ensure food and environmental security it is vital we are given our fair share of water.

“The Government needs to think about extending permitted development rights to build on-farm reservoirs. This could make a real difference during any drought, particularly using flexible abstraction licenses to allow efficient recharge of reservoirs.

“Our members in the Eastern region are seriously concerned about the potential for drought this summer. We are pleased the Secretary of State is trying to address the issue at this early stage but it is absolutely essential that farmers get a fairer allocation of water now.”

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Mr Cotterell added: “The CLA has been working with Defra and the Environment Agency to reduce the impact of current water resource issues on farmers and land managers who must be encouraged to capture and use water more efficiently. They also need to be supported and rewarded for delivering and managing sustainable water supplies.

“The monthly drought reports from the Environment Agency have been very helpful and we are pleased it is going to work more closely with water companies to develop water transfer schemes.”

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