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Farmers must be given tools to ride the storm of weather volatility

There is no doubt 2020 will be remembered as a year of extremes. And not least because of the weather; floods one minute, drought the next. 

For an industry where weather is seen as both a best friend and a worst enemy, this year’s harvest was always going to be a tricky one.

 

From stop-start, to just stop, the catchy affair has led to one of the latest harvests on record for some.

And while quality is fair, yields are way down and costs of production have rocketed.

 

We can hope that last autumn/winter’s impossible conditions were a one-off, but growers are clearly anxious that it could be repeated this year.

 

Our survey shows many are going back to earlier drilling dates this autumn as a result, reassured by the security of at least having a crop in the ground this time round.

 

Financial aid from the Government would help soften the blow, but as Lancashire grower Paul Martland says, this would be a one-off and short-term measure, not a long-term solution for what is becoming an ever more common problem.


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While the Government cannot do much about the weather, it can put infrastructure and policies in place which help farmers deal with extreme climatic events.

 

That means working with farmers and landowners to develop workable, locally targeted water strategies which can help protect businesses against drought and flooding.

 

Well-considered integrated water management that will help to manage both flood and drought risk can play an important role in the development of the Government’s new Environmental Land Management Scheme.

 

But the industry cannot wait until the scheme’s projected start date of 2024 and four more harvests until any progress is made.

 

With the Met Office and others predicting this extreme weather volatility will become more frequent in our ‘new normal’, we must ensure we have the right tools and measures in place to both protect livelihoods and our food security.

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