Farms have suffered “unprecedented damage” from the recent flooding, Minette Batters said as she called for support for those affected.
Image source: Geoff Robinson
Severe flooding hit several parts of Yorkshire and the East Midlands last week, with areas around Doncaster worst affected after the River Don burst its banks.
The NFU president said the full impact on farmers in the region is not yet known, but potentially 30%-50% of potatoes are still in the ground. She added that the floods were “living proof that we are going to see more extreme weather events, and the future government has to look at how we store water, and how we deal with water maintenance going forwards”.
Winter crops have not been sown, with pesticide products likely to be out of date by the time they can next be used, and there could potentially be shortages of seed for spring planting.
It could lead to “massive and unprecedented costs”, Ms Batters warned.
Saying British growers are “pretty phenomenal”, she added: “I know everybody will be doing everything possible to make sure there are no shortages of sprouts for Christmas, there are no shortages of potatoes.”
But she said it showed the need for the Government and Environment Agency to take managing water seriously.
“I’ve, in my working lifetime, never seen so little winter planting done,” she added, saying that, while she was lucky that her farm in Wiltshire had not been flooded, it was nevertheless very wet and she had been unable to plant.
She called for the next government to provide flexibility for farmers who have to meet environmental rules to receive payments under the EU’s agricultural subsidies regime but whose land has been devastated by flooding.
The standard subsidies, which are due from December 1, must land on time, and payments for wildlife-friendly farming schemes must be paid for work that has been completed, she said.
She also called for a wider roll-out of the flood recovery fund to all farming businesses who have been nit by flooding.