Government policy must be shaped to enable farmers and growers to better capture water during times of plenty to help the industry produce more British food when there are shortages, the NFU said.
Climate change adviser Dr Ceris Jones said the industry couldn’t keep going from peak to trough where water was concerned.
“With the risk of flooding at the forefront of many farmers minds after the rainfall of the last few weeks (or after last year), it might seem strange to talk about water security, but they are two sides of the same coin,” she said.
“If agriculture in the UK is to realise its potential as the climate changes we need to give farmers the tools and the confidence to invest in the face of an uncertain future climate. Some of that confidence will come from government policy recognising that farming needs a fair and secure supply of water but that agricultural land also needs to be protected from flooding.”
The past 18 months has demonstrated how vulnerable agriculture is to extreme weather events with 14% wiped off UK farming’s bottom line in 2012 – and climate change projections suggest that such extreme events may become more frequent.
The NFU believes financial support and less red tape when building on-farm water storage reservoirs could help farmers play a wider role in both reducing flood risk and increasing water security.
At the same time abstraction reform in the Government’s Water Bill needs to enable farmers to fill up their reserves during periods of high flows regardless of the season.