By Marie-Claire Kidd
More than £1 million has been paid to 180 flood-hit farmers after last winter’s storms.
More than £9m will be allocated to a further 800 farmers across Northern England as part of the Farming Recovery Fund (FRF).
The fund formed part of a £250m government response to unprecedented flooding last December, after Storms Desmond and Eva. It has helped farmers bring land back to production through mending and replacing fences, walls and gates, clearing debris, restoring damaged river banks and reinstating access.
All farmers who applied have now been told whether they were successful. Grants of up to £20,000 were available to farmers in Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland, Yorkshire, County Durham and Greater Manchester. The RPA received over 1,100 applications by the deadline of 15 April, 1,035 of which were approved.
The NFU said while it was pleased £1m had been paid out, £8m was still outstanding.
NFU flood management adviser Martin Rogers said: "This funding is vital to enable farmers to recover from the floods, for many this was not the first time they have been affected.
"While this announcement is a positive step, we must remember that over £8m in funding is yet to be processed and we will continue working with the RPA to ensure that all outstanding claims, once submitted, are processed as quickly as possible. We are also calling for a full review of this round of funding to highlight what has worked well and where changes could be made to streamline the process for the future.
Claims for completed repair work must be submitted to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) by December 31. Any farmer unable to meet this deadline should contact the Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.
RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw said: “I’d encourage those who’ve had their applications approved to send their claims for completed work to us before the end of December deadline.”
CLA North Rural Adviser Libby Bateman said the FRF had provided vital support to farmers and similar funds would be crucial in the future. “We’ll keep working closely with applicants and with the RPA to ensure payments still to be made are paid as smoothly and swiftly as possible,” she said.
“There have been some issues with the FRF that should be improved. The priority is to create greater flexibility in the timings for carrying out work.
“With scheme guidance advising that work must not begin until an offer letter is received, some farmers have had to carry out time-critical work at the risk of not getting reimbursed. Coupled with delayed BPS payments, this has put a great deal of additional pressure on farm finances. The implications of this situation will become clear as claims are considered.
“There have also been issues with river bank work, where there has at times been a lack of consistency in Environment Agency (EA) advice. The EA is bound by licence conditions that have been unworkable in these extreme circumstances, so this has created some challenges that should be reviewed.”
Full guidance: www.gov.uk/government/collections/the-farming-recovery-fund