EAST YORKSHIRE MP Greg Knight said there is a strong case for government to commit more funding to river maintenance, after he held a meeting with local farmers.
The politician heard of how farmers in the area were keen for more urgent progress to be made on implementing the River Hull Strategy, a multi-agency plan drawn up by local authorities and the Environment Agency, among others, which includes dredging the river and removing sunken vessels to improve flow and reduce flood risk.
Twenty farmers from Driffield met the Conservative MP and his local MEP counterpart Timothy Kirkhope and raised the issue, as well as other concerns about maintenance and management of the whole catchment area.
With sunken barge vessels still remaining in the River Hull, farmers fear for the capacity of the watercourse when the sort of sustained heavy rainfall strikes that saw thousands of acres of Yorkshire farmland submerged in the aftermath of the Boxing Day floods.
Mr Knight said he believed it was important to pursue the River Hull Strategy “with vigour” and that he would be doing so with his parliamentary colleagues.
The recent Boxing Day floods had put flooding high on the government’s agenda, he added, saying he was firmly of the view that farmers, as well as home owners, should be considered when flood defences were being planned.
“Having met with local farmers, I understand that whilst the recent floods didn’t directly affect East Yorkshire they highlighted the need for East Riding of Yorkshire Council, the Environment Agency and other stakeholders to progress with the outcomes of the River Hull Strategy,” Mr Knight said.
“I think there is a strong case now to push the government for a monetary commitment to more river maintenance.”
Other issues raised at the meeting included the delay in Basic Payment Scheme payments and the crippling effect this is having on the agricultural industry and wider rural economy.
The Rural Payments Agency, which administers the scheme, announced on Tuesday that two-thirds of BPS claimants had now been paid.
Farmers also raised frustrations at the complexity of Natural England’s new Countryside Stewardship Scheme. This complexity, they argued makes the scheme very inaccessible and as a result, there has been incredibly low uptake nationally.
Timothy Kirkhope MEP used the opportunity to talk about the new European Commission initiative - the Agricultural Markets Task Force – designed to support farmers in their dealings with the food supply chain.
“This is a real opportunity for our farmers to get better contractual terms as suppliers of food and food products and to ensure that there are also opportunities for collective farmers’ action through the NFU if necessary,” Mr Kirkhope said.
“For too long our farmers have had difficulty negotiating fair treatment with retailers and wholesalers and this new Task Force under Commissioner Hogan will explore ways to help them,” he added.