Productive farmland prone to flooding ‘should be given higher priority’
The most productive farmland, much of which lies in vulnerable floodplains and coastal regions, should be given a higher priority in funding decisions, agricultural leaders say.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has launched a Flooding Manifesto, highlighting the industry’s priorities for future flood management policies.
The tidal surge which swept the East Anglian coast last month should serve as a warning to ensure enough funding is provided to protect farmland from flood risks, it said.
The manifesto, launched in Westminster, asks for greater emphasis on decisions being made at a “catchment level”, using the local knowledge of farmers and other groups such as Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs).
Rob Wise, environment adviser for NFU East Anglia, said without such measures “near misses” such as last month’s surge could become catastrophes for farmers, and called for more devolved local decision-making.
The work that goes into producing and processing food and all the rural industries is “just as important” as residential and business properties, but the value of agricultural land was undervalued, he argued
“Farmers have risen to the challenge along our coast where government budgets have been squeezed,” he said.
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“For example farmers in the Alde and Ore estuaries are key to raising new funds to do wall raising and repairs, underpinning new loans being taken out by the IDB and looking to provide rural exemption sites for housing where the funds raised can be put straight into the flood defence pot.”
“While recent increases in central government funding for river maintenance are welcome, the increases do not go far enough to compensate for the lack of work in recent years. Farmers contribute through the General Drainage Charge but have not seen these monies spent on improving the overall conveyance of Suffolk and Essex rivers. If farmers are to continue to pay General Drainage Charge (GDC) we need to see more work on the rivers where the money is raised.”
“In Essex coastal farmers are working directly with the Environment Agency to take on minor sea wall repairs, allowing the EA to focus on the more complex and larger repair works.”