Farmers hit by Storm Eva flooding in Lancashire and Yorkshire will receive emergency funding of up to £20,000 each, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has announced today.
The Farming Recovery Fund, originally launched to help farmers hit by Storm Desmond in Cumbria, Northumberland and parts of Lancashire, will now be extended to farmers in all the areas affected by storms over Christmas and Boxing Day, Miss Truss said.
It means that farmers suffering from uninsurable losses can apply for Farming Recovery Fund grants of up to £20,000 via the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to help restore soils, rebuild tracks and repair flood channels.
Miss Truss said: “We have witnessed further unprecedented flooding which will have serious consequences for farmers. We remain committed to providing practical support to those farmers affected.
“That is why I am pleased to announce we will be extending the Farming Recovery Fund to help cover short-term uninsured recovery costs such as, repairing damaged soils, tracks and flood channels.
“Farmers need to know that when the worst strikes, we are ready to offer relief at this challenging time so they can focus on their recovery.”
Farmers need to know that when the worst strikes, we are ready to offer relief at this challenging time so they can focus on their recovery.Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss
The announcement would come as “a huge relief” to farmers, said James Copeland, regional environment adviser at the National Farmers’ Union.
“With so many Yorkshire farms now affected by very severe flooding, regional and national staff have been working round the clock since Boxing Day to ensure that the impact on farmers was at the forefront of the Minister’s mind and that priority was given to extending the reach of the Recovery Fund.
“With hundreds of acres of crops, and pasture land under water and livestock swept away, farmers will be grateful for some help in getting their business recovery underway. This is crucial if the terrible weather we have experienced is not to have a significant impact on food production for next year.”
Mr Copeland added: “Today’s announcement will certainly help with the short term recovery challenges. However in the long term, given the increasing frequency of these serious flooding events, the NFU urges the government, Defra and flood risk authorities to take a fresh look at how we manage flooding situations, balancing the complexities of individual catchments and river systems.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Richard Bramley, who grows milling wheat on his farm at Kelfield near York.
In a video message to explain how farmers were being effected by flooding, he told of how 62 acres of his crop - enough milling wheat for 250,000 loaves of bread, had been left inundated with flood water since Boxing Day. The water is not expected to subside for weeks.
He said: “Where I farm, I expect it’s going to flood occasionally but since the year 2000 and the great floods then, this is the eighth time this has happened.”
The Country Land and Business Association welcomed the grants extension to Yorkshire farmers.
Regional director Dorothy Fairburn said: “We’ve been pressing for the funding to be extended to Yorkshire so that hard hit farmers get the same treatment as Cumbria, Lancashire and Northumberland.
“It’s a really difficult time for everybody across the whole of the North of England. Almost everyone has been affected by the flooding in some way.”
As part of today’s announcement, the Environment Secretary said the RPA will not be carrying out inspections in the flooded areas and will make use of any flexibility in cross compliance and animal movement rules for affected farmers, The deadline for applications to the Farming Recovery Fund has been extended to 1 April 2016 and the RPA aims to make payments against valid claims within five working days, once checks are completed.
Farmers affected by flooding will be able to claim grants of between £500 and £20,000 to cover the cost of restoring their farmland. This includes: the restoration of productive stock proof grassland; restoration of productive arable and horticultural land; restoration of field access or track ways, fencing or gates or water troughs; restoration of drainage on flood-damaged holdings; damage to agricultural machinery that cannot be insured, and damage to agricultural buildings that cannot be insured.
Funding would include re-siting or re-location on the basis of improved positioning away from river edges, raising parapets or relocating to a less vulnerable access point in the field.
Meanwhile, Natural England is also temporarily lifting requirements that normally apply to Environmental Stewardship agreements and protected sites, so that farmers and land managers in North affected by floods can focus on recovery.
Farmers who want to apply for the Farming Recovery Fund can find details at GOV.UK/rpa and can contact the Rural Services helpline on 03000 200 301.