The Environment Agency has been accused of hypocrisy and negligence for failing to maintain waterways to prevent catastrophic flooding on farms.
Farmers say they are constantly told by the government to take care of the soil, environment and wildlife, but all that good work is being undone by severe damage to farmland following the deluge.
Following the devastating damage to British farms caused by recent storms, the NFU is calling on farmers to sign an open letter asking all political parties to outline plans to protect farming operations from flooding.
See also: Q&A: What are your rights if your farmland is flooded?
NFU vice-chairman Tom Bradshaw said years of “austerity inaction” and the Environment Agency’s failure to carry out vital maintenance work along waterways to keep rivers flowing had led to recent farm cuts. He said that this was the main factor behind the flood incident.
The Met Office has issued a “danger to life” warning for southern England as Storm Ciaran is expected to hit the country with further heavy rain and strong winds on Thursday, November 2.
Lincolnshire arable farmer Andrew Ward said thousands of acres of farmland in the county were still under two meters of floodwater after Storm Babette, causing severe financial loss and mental stress for farmers. He said he was facing it.
He said while the EA prosecuted farmers like potato grower John Price for damaging Herefordshire’s River Lugg, there was no punishment for years of neglect and mismanagement of the river. He questioned whether he would be able to get away with not having to take the test.
“If one-hundredth of the damage caused by EA was caused by farmers, we would be in jail,” Ward said. “But they can drown and harm wildlife, and nothing will happen.”
His godson Henry Ward, whose arable farm in Short Ferry, near Lincoln, suffered severe flooding in 2019, has once again experienced devastating flooding.
The Birlings O River overtopped in several places, causing extensive damage to its banks and flooding his and his neighbors’ land.
Two weeks after Storm Babette, around 250 hectares of land remains under water.
Mr Ward lost between 30,000 and 40,000 pounds on a recently established winter crop and faces similar bills to establish a spring crop.
“The EA is useless at managing water. I’m tired of trying to fight them and causing floods,” he said.
“I don’t think they’re going to do the river maintenance that’s needed to prevent another flood.”
As a result, Mr Ward is in talks with the EA to use his land as a flood retention area for the benefit of everyone.
“This helps prevent flooding in the community and also reduces my financial risk as I get compensation for crop losses,” he explained.
“Thirdly, this makes taxpayers’ money more useful, as it will pay me much less for crop losses than spending millions of dollars on riverbank restoration every four years.” It will be used for.”
NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy told the union’s autumn conference last week that 30 years ago farmers regularly removed gravel and silt from pinch points in rivers.
But years of “inaction” in river maintenance had cost the industry millions of dollars in crop losses and infrastructure damage.
The Scottish Government has pledged to donate £50,000 to farming charity Rusavi to support flood-hit farmers, but Defra has not provided similar support.
Defra chief executive Therese Coffey said the EA needed to become “more agile” and build trust with farmers about actions to prevent flooding.
The ministry added that it was considering a range of options, including making more use of existing powers to lease land to be used as floodplains and compensate farmers for flooded fields.