NFU’s flooding manifesto warns of danger of under-funding to farmland

Flooded Salthouse Marshes

Flooded Salthouse Marshes - Credit:

The tidal surge which swept along the East Anglian coast last month should serve as a warning to ensure enough funding is provided to protect farmland from extreme weather and flood risks.

Rob Wise, NFU regional environment adviser

Rob Wise, NFU regional environment adviser - Credit: submitted

That was the message from the National Farmers' Union (NFU) as it launched its Flooding Manifesto – a report which highlights the industry's priorities on future flood management policies.

The manifesto, launched in Westminster just two weeks after scores of severe flood warnings were issued along the east coast, asks for greater emphasis on decisions being made at a 'catchment level', using the local knowledge of farmers and other groups such as Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs).

It also demands that the most productive farmland, much of which lies in vulnerable floodplains and coastal regions, is given a higher priority in funding decisions.

Rob Wise, environment adviser for NFU East Anglia, said: 'We need more devolved local decision-making, because what happens in Cumbria is very different to what happens on the Norfolk coast, which in turn is very different fluvially to what happens on the Broads.

'Much of the catchment-based planning we are doing to prevent run-off has a fluvial aspect, so if we are planning this at a catchment level we should be planning for flooding at a local level as well.

'Our number one ask is that the value of agricultural land has been undervalued and the amount of protection given over to it diminished to channel most of the money into towns and people and property. In the same way the government says we should recognise the value of businesses, we say the work that goes into producing and processing food and all the rural industries is just as important as residential and business properties.

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'What we are calling for is that funding is sufficient and transparent – and that is especially important now that there is a greater emphasis on partnership funding, because if landowners are being asked to contribute they need to understand that the ability to call on government resources has been properly investigated and drained dry before they put their hands in their own pockets.

'What happened earlier this month was a near miss. We would like flooding to remain at the top of the politicians' agenda, however when you have a near miss like this, people tend to think we are in good shape and everything is OK. But we are only OK because we are taking action to put in capital schemes and maintaining defences at the height they were built for. Without that, these near misses become catastrophes.'