Relentless rain which has put Britain on course for its wettest June on record has reinforced industry calls for policy makers to engage with farming as they seek to tackle climate change.
NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts told a meeting with the Environment Agency this week that its policies did not have the ‘drive and ambition’ and often failed to take into the account the need for investment in flood mitigation measures or the value of farmland as a national asset.
The meeting, which also included the Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA), came as the UK was deluged with a month’s rain in just a few hours.
But Mr Roberts said the industry and other stakeholders needed to prioritise flood management ahead of extreme weather events, rather than after.
“Farmers are really willing to play their part and help with flood alleviation but we do not value what farming and farmland does [in terms of water storage].
“The severe floods experienced in recent years have demonstrated why necessary long-term strategic plans must be in place – including the right financial resources to mitigate future flood risk and to ensure our farmers and growers can continue to produce a safe, traceable and affordable supply of food.”
ADA chief executive Innes Thomson said a major issue was that aging local infrastructure used to control water levels was building rural areas ‘up for a fall’.
He said watercourses were instead desperate for proper assets, maintenance and investment, and that the industry must be made aware of the possible means to sensibly store water for future use to help give back to the agricultural community in times of need.
Mr Thomson said: “If we have some constructive thinking there we could save that water and use it to minimise the threat of agricultural drought.”
At a muddy Cereals Event in Lincolnshire on Wednesday, NFU president Minette Batters said climate change was ‘the story of our time’ as the Government announced a push to be net carbon zero by 2050.
She said the NFU’s committed to net zero by 2040 had presented the industry as part of the solution.
“It has opened doors,” she said. “The Climate Change Committee has said come on in.”
CLA deputy president Mark Bridgeman added workable policies were needed to ‘ensure the UK leads by example in delivery too’.