Farmers need help to become part of the nation's flood defence solution, says Charles Hesketh, East regional policy manager for the National Farmers' Union (NFU).

The recent storms, Babet and Ciarán, had a major impact on the everyday lives of many people in our region.

Homes, businesses, schools and roads were all hit, with large areas of farmland flooded and crops destroyed.

Sadly, climate change is making extreme weather events more frequent. The series of recent floods and droughts has highlighted the vulnerability of the entire country to extreme weather, from farmland to our towns and cities.

Inaction is simply no longer an option. Communities should not be left desperately reacting every time they are hit by a severe storm. Long-term thinking is needed.

Farmers can be part of the solution and they are ready to play their part. There are already great examples of farmers adapting their businesses to make them more resilient to extreme weather by developing on-farm rainwater harvesting systems and using precision irrigation.

They can do much more as long as they have support and the tools to do so - being able to access funding to build more on-farm reservoirs, reducing the barriers to planning and investing in new irrigation equipment would help alleviate flooding and secure more water.

A collaborative approach is needed, which is why the NFU is calling on all political parties to set out their plans to protect farmland from flooding or reward farmers fairly for the public good they are delivering when their land is used to store water to protect towns and villages.

A comprehensive water management strategy should set out how farmers can collaborate better with government, local authorities, water companies and the Environment Agency.

Critical to this will be a significant investment in our water infrastructure – an ambitious upgrade of ageing flood defences, drainage and proper maintenance of waterways.

A serious commitment by the government, Environment Agency and from farmers to upgrade and invest in our water infrastructure will have benefits for everyone and protect communities from the devastating impacts of flooding.