THE NFU has called for a better partnership between farmers, government and the Environment Agency to help protect farmland from flooding.
Farmers report that they are being prevented from undertaking voluntary maintenance of water courses and agricultural land is being left to flood.
Despite an additional £120m capital spend for flood defences announced in the autumn, after the record-breaking wet summer, farmers believe that budget cuts have seen river maintenance reach an all-time low.
NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said it was critical that the Environment Agency and Defra put more funding into maintenance budgets and that Defra policy rebalanced the weighting for flood defence spending to give greater consideration to high-value farmland.
He said: “We’ve heard how farmers are still battling the impacts of wet land; whether that’s not being able to harvest crops or vegetables or autumn plantings being drowned, there are huge concerns out there.
“And while the capital budget has been given an additional £120m, in the main for defence projects, we have heard today that the Environment Agency is expected to have £49m less over the next few years to spend on essential things such as maintenance. This nonsense has to be reversed.
“Farmers are saying quite clearly that they are prepared to look after rivers and undertake additional drainage on their farm but they are prevented by additional regulations aimed at protecting habitats. Surely we can do both?”
The NFU will continue to lobby ministers on the urgent need to reverse the decline in spending for essential river maintenance.