Farmers and rural communities are "unfairly shouldering the burden” of flooding because of “years of poor management” from the Environment Agency, claimed rural business leaders.

Two successive storms in the last fortnight, Babet and Ciaran, have caused devastating floods which have affected land and property across the East of England.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) wants the government to do more to support farmers and landowners - saying their fields are being sacrificed to save houses and villages downstream.

CLA president Mark Tufnell said: "Years of poor management of watercourses and flood defences by the Environment Agency, often caused by lack of resources, mean farmers are still unfairly shouldering the burden of flooding devastation. 

“Landowners don’t receive compensation when the Environment Agency effectively floods their fields to protect downstream houses and villages, despite the harm to their crops and livelihoods.

"And when farmers do attempt to implement flood prevention techniques, they face lengthy authorisation delays and costs, creating a lose-lose situation. 

"Farmers want to provide solutions to the climate crisis. But until the government steps in to tackle planning delays and offer full and proper compensation to those storing floodwater, farmers will continue paying the price for problems they didn’t create."

The CLA’s call for help follows an open letter from the National Farmers’ Union after Storm Babet, urging ministers to outline plans to protect farm businesses from flooding, and to ensure farmers are adequately paid in compensation for when their fields are flooded.

It also calls for changes to the flood defence grant so that “rural communities are not disadvantaged by the nature of smaller populations in comparison to urban communities”.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We are acutely aware of the impacts flooding can have on farmers and the agriculture sector, and our teams are working hard on the ground to help people recover from Storm Babet and the current impacts being felt by Storm Ciaran.

"Between April 2021 and April 2023 we have better protected around 148,000 hectares of agricultural land through our flooding investment programme.

"Working with farmers and landowners is also an important part of our flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy roadmap up to 2026, which is supported by a wide range of partners, including the NFU."