Farmers have been warned about the implications of severe heat as temperatures in the UK are on track to peak later today.
The Met Office said it expected temperatures in the south to reach 39degC, hotter than the previous record and set to be the hottest ever day in the UK.
But Viv Vivers of Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers (FMIB) said the hotter summers were taking a toll on farmers, with some still up against the fallout from last summer’s drought-like conditions.
She said this latest heatwaves gave credence to experts’ warning that extreme summer heatwaves could become the new norm, ‘meaning increasing volatility and uncertainty for farmers’.
Ms Vivers said: “Although people up and down the country are enjoying a break from the gloomy British summertime, it is sinking in that there are consequences to persistent heatwaves.
“Farmers are increasingly having to deal with extreme weather conditions – the pendulum now swinging between record levels of rainfall to record temperatures.”
She said the Met Office had warned that climate change had made the record-breaking 2018 British summer 30 times more likely to recur, with similar temperatures expected every other year by 2050.
“The sad reality is that farmers, particularly smaller operations, are having to deal with all these risk factors on their own,” Ms Vivers said.
“It is hard for them to juggle the responsibilities of keeping their animals and fields healthy in such sustained, adverse weather.”
Toby Baker, also of FMIB, said an abundance of combustible materials, threat of arson, ‘hot’ work, risk of electrical faults in buildings and overheating in machinery were just some of the fire risks farmers faced daily.
The hot weather that has become the norm in recent summers accelerates this risk, he said.
According to Defra, there are more than 1,000 fires in agricultural buildings each year, many of which are preventable.
Mr Baker said: “Take hay bales. Find out if there is a haystack limit defined by value rather than volume.
“If, for example, a stack with £60,000 worth of hay catches fire, there is a strong chance it exceeds the limit. Often there are distance limits written into policies too, which is usually 20 metres, but this can vary.
“Stack and distance limits do not just apply to haystacks. Potato growing businesses often stack boxes adjacent to farm buildings, as stores empty. However, many farmers are unaware of the required distance between a shed and the empty boxes to keep their policy valid.
“The best way to comply with the terms of a policy is to split stacks and keep them in different locations.”
Wildfire is a risk but farm-combined policies will cover damage caused to a farmer’s own buildings by spreading wildlife, while Public Liability will provide protection if a fire spreads from a farmer’s land to a neighbour’s.
Mr Baker said: “Forewarned is forearmed and you should have a plan in the event of a fire, including an evacuation plan, for family, workers and livestock. Do not overlook basic risk management.
“It is surprising how many farmers lack adequate fire extinguishers, despite spending thousands of pounds on insurance.
“Finally, remember that good fire practice can result in lower insurance premiums – and additional incentive for keeping the risk of fire at the forefront of your mind.”
Ms Vivers and Mr Baker said there was a number of steps farmers could be taking to protect themselves and their businesses from the summer heat: