But the Environment Agency said it was ‘better prepared than ever’ to protect properties and homes and flood-affected areas.
Government inaction has exacerbated the flooding in the East Midlands and North East of England which has immersed farms in lake-like rippling water.
This was the feeling among farmers in affected areas who said a lack of maintenance in the rivers by local authorities was to blame, suggesting they had done ‘not much’ in helping relieve the situation.
But farmers in Cumbria, who were hit by a similar event in 2015, told them ‘not to hold their breath’ after many local villages still had no defence in place, despite similar lobbying.
Farmer Robert Robinson, who farms near the River Don, South Yorkshire, where five danger to life severe flood warnings were in place earlier this week, said: “My whole farm is just covered in water.
“We desperately need the River Don to be dredged and cleaned out – it is there to transport water and it is not doing its job correctly.”
The Environment Agency (EA) said dredging was ‘not the right thing to do’ in the River Don and other measures such as flood walls, pumping stations and storage were a ‘more effective way’ of managing the flood risk.
It said it was ‘better prepared than ever’ to protect properties and homes in flood-affected areas.
If this isn’t a national emergency, it’s hard to know what is. The damage to our food producers will be massive t.co/5BfQAnWYvU— peterm4rtin (@peterm4rtin)
But Essex farmer Ed Ford said the EA had ‘neglected’ waterways across the country ‘for decades’.
“I really hope they wake up to the fact that regular dredging of all waterways is essential,” he said. “[It is the] same old ‘let’s flood the farmers and their land to protect the towns’.
The UK was hit by 109 per cent (138.8mm) of its average rainfall in October, according to The Met Office.
Although all severe flood warnings are no longer in force, there are 34 flood warnings and 78 flood alerts (as of November 13), with heavy rain expected later in the week.
The NFU is calling on the next Government to develop long-term strategic plans to mitigate future flood risk and better manage water, as well as to properly reward farmers for providing flood management services.
President Minette Batters said: “The UK has £20 billion of flood defence assets yet too little is being spent on upkeep – this spending must be increased.”
Others spoke of ‘unbelievable damage’ to the soil and wildlife and called for a full investigation into the EA to ‘review how they operate’.
Many on social media hit out at Defra non-executive director Ben Goldsmith for his suggestion that although the flooding was ‘appalling for the farmer’, he was ‘not sure fenland wildlife is going to mind getting wet.’
Appalling for the farmer, but I’m not sure fenland wildlife is going to mind getting wet.— Ben Goldsmith (@BenGoldsmith)
Appalling for the farmer, but I’m not sure fenland wildlife is going to mind getting wet.— Ben Goldsmith (@BenGoldsmith) November 11, 2019
Agricultural consultant Philip Wynn said at least 600-acres of his land in Aubourn, Lincoln, which is part of a washlands scheme, is underwater.
“We are storing water to protect Lincoln,” he said. “There needs to be some proper maintenance.
“This is the fourth occasion since June that the river has been high enough for us to have been on alert to be used.”
Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA) chairman Robert Caudwell said the Lincoln washlands were the type of approach ‘we want to see much more of’.
Problems with defences came when they breach, he said.
Mr Caudwell said: “Our policy is about managing whole catchments rather than building more defences in urban areas and leaving rural areas – not just farmland but rural villages – undefended.
“We need more planned washlands where farmers are properly paid to store water.”