46 minutes ago
About sharing

Debbie Wilkins has backed warnings that continued extreme weather is now threatening UK food production
By Malcolm Prior and Lucy Vladev
BBC News rural affairs

Record-breaking rain over the past few months has left fields of crops under water and livestock’s health at risk, adding to pressures on food producers.

The flooding and extreme weather linked to climate change will undermine UK food production unless farmers get more help, the National Farmers Union said.

The NFU is calling on the government to do more to compensate flooded farmers and support domestic food production.

The government said it was looking to expand a new compensation scheme.

The NFU has warned of “substantially reduced output” and “potential hits” to the quality of crops in this year’s harvest thanks to weeks of rain since the autumn.

NFU vice president Rachel Hallos said UK farmers were “on the front line of climate change – one of the biggest threats to UK food security”.

“These extremes could soon become the norm,” she told the BBC. “We need a clear plan from government to prepare, adapt and recover from our changing climate in the short and long term so that we can continue to produce food and care for the countryside.”

Crops have been destroyed as UK growers faced extreme downpours and storms since the autumn

Debbie Wilkins is a mixed dairy, beef and arable farmer, with much of her 900 acres of land at Norton Court Farm, near Gloucester, lying in the floodplain.

Debbie, whose family have farmed there since 1936, said the land used to flood every six years when she was young, but had flooded three times last year and six times already this year.

Meanwhile, beef cattle that would normally be grazing in the fields are being kept off the land because, as Debbie jokes, “cattle don’t do very well underwater”.

The flood waters mean there is less feed for the cattle, and reserves are being used up rapidly. If the bad weather continues, livestock may have to be sold off and jobs on the farm cut.

Debbie backed warnings that such extreme weather was now threatening domestic food production – and could raise prices for consumers.

“I really feel climate change is kicking in and affecting us and it could affect people’s food on the table and prices in the supermarket,” she said.

“We can’t just import our way out of this issue. People need to think about how we can be resilient and keep feeding the world in a changing climate.”

Compensation is only being given for fields close to certain rivers

Earlier this week, the government launched its Farm Recovery Fund, offering grants of between £500 and £25,000 to farmers in some parts of England who have suffered uninsurable flooding damage to their land.

Debbie said of the compensation available: “It’s better than nothing and I welcome that they have given some compensation but there are a lot of people who haven’t got anything and it needs to be more wide-ranging and offer more help in the long term, not just compensating for what’s happened now but by helping people be more resilient for the future.”

The government said that, since 2015, it had protected more than 900,000 acres of agricultural land from the impacts of flooding.

It added that it had listened to complaints that the new scheme limited compensation only to fields within 150m of an eligible river and lifted that restriction.

Farming minister Mark Spencer said: “This means that farmers will be able to receive payments for all land parcels which are flooded contiguous to an eligible river.

“We’ll continue to listen to farmers and look at how we can expand the scheme and improve support for those affected.”

19 hours ago
1 day ago
3 November 2023