Resilience measures are urgently needed to combat extreme weather events in future, the NFU and NFU Cymru have urged, with this summer’s drought highlighting the vulnerability of farming and the nation’s food security.
In a bid to protect agriculture from the volatilities of climate change, the organisations have published a document setting out key priorities for making farming and the food system more resilient to drought.
Published on 5 December to coincide with Farmers’ Day at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland, the document breaks its recommendations for government and the farming sector down into three sections: ‘plan’, ‘protect’ and ‘pay’.
- Develop long-term collaborative plans for managing water scarcity, with food production recognised as a priority user
- Develop and promote best practice in the management of resources like soil and fodder across all sectors
- Ensure strategic planning of straw supply and demand across the straw industry
- Promote contingency planning among farmers to help them better understand the risks of water supply disruption and how to manage them
- Develop policy measures to support farmers in managing the impacts of weather and market-related volatility, including droughts and water scarcity
- Deliver maximum and timely flexibility in the application of water abstraction rules
- Make prompt payments and introducing rapid derogations to rules governing farmed environment schemes
- Remove blockages in the planning and licensing regulations that impede the construction of more on-farm water storage reservoirs
- Introduce tax incentives to enable investment in farm reservoirs, and new farmed environment schemes to encourage water efficiency measures
- Invest in improved monitoring and measuring of abstraction to make best use of available water
- Continue investment in the UK’s weather forecasting capability, especially in medium-term forecasts and those aligned to real-time water availability monitoring to support drought planning
NFU president Minette Batters said: “The summer’s heatwave and the impacts of the agricultural drought were hugely challenging and should be a wake-up call for us all.
“It caused crop yields to become increasingly unpredictable, lower quality in fruit and vegetables, a severe lack of feed and bedding for livestock, interruptions to vital water supplies and an increased risk of fire. The reality is that the full effects won’t really be known until next year.
She added: “At our Drought Summit in August Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove promised ‘to do whatever it takes’, to deliver ‘maximum flexibility’ and to ‘move quickly’.
“Since then we have been working closely with the government and its agencies to alleviate the effects of the drought and will continue to monitor for potential drought next year.
“Our industry is on the forefront of climate change impacts and producing safe, traceable and affordable food is a daily challenge for UK farmers.
“The lessons we have learned clearly identify what policies need to be in place to manage market failure and volatility.
“This must be treated seriously alongside productivity and delivering for the environment in order to provide a supply of homegrown food and to deliver food security for the nation.”