NFU says ministers have been listening and fund is a welcome step

A flooded carrot field in York

A flooded carrot field in York

The NFU has welcomed the opening of Defra’s Farming Recovery Fund following months of extreme rainfall that has created a growing crisis for British farmers.

The fund was announced in January to support farmers impacted by Storm Henk, with that event and months of heavy rain since October leaving vast swathes of agricultural land saturated and in many cases still under water.

Initially, the fund will be available to a group of areas hit hard by Storm Henk in January. These are Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, West Northamptonshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.

The NFU said it was particularly pleased that eligibility for the fund will be kept open by Defra for other areas affected. Counties under review at this stage are Berkshire, Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Norfolk and Derbyshire.

‘Crisis is building’

NFU vice president Rachel Hallos said: “People should be in no doubt about the immense pressure UK farm businesses are under thanks to this unprecedented and constant rain. It’s no exaggeration to say a crisis is building. While farmers are bearing the brunt of it now, consumers may well see the effects through the year as produce simply doesn’t leave the farm gate.

“Combined with input costs which have been soaring for two years, the awful impact of this extreme weather on farmers cannot be overestimated. I have real worries for not just the financial situation of many NFU members, but also the impact this is having on them personally.

“The Recovery Fund is very welcome against this background. Defra ministers who have driven this forward will have the thanks of many of our members for whom it will be a lifeline. I’m also very pleased that ministers have taken the decision to keep eligibility for the fund open for others affected.

“It’s very encouraging that ministers have been in listening mode on this and have acted on what is not only a terrible situation for farmers to be in, but also a growing issue for UK food security. This is a good start, and I hope Defra will remain open and flexible in recognising the other areas where help is urgently needed given the impact of this endless rain goes far beyond the impact of Storm Henk.”