Yorkshire’s post-floods farm repair bill tops £1m

It has taken months for farm businesses to recover from the December floods and it has cost �1.7m in government funding to put much of the damage right.  Picture: Mike Cowling.
It has taken months for farm businesses to recover from the December floods and it has cost �1.7m in government funding to put much of the damage right. Picture: Mike Cowling.
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Hundreds of Yorkshire farms hit by the December floods have received a total of £1.7m from the Government to aid their recovery, according to new figures.

Vast areas of farmland in the North of England were inundated with flood waters in the wake of Storms Desmond and Eva, with many losing valuable crops and suffering damage to fields and farm infrastructure.

Since then some 244 farming businesses in Yorkshire have successfully applied to an emergency funding package set up by the Government.

With the exception of Cumbria - which suffered the worst flooding damage - Yorkshire farmers have received the most government help to ease their recovery.

In total, across the North, in excess of £9m has been shared between more than 1,000 farms from the Farming Recovery Fund. Grants of up to £20,000 were made available to farmers in Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland, County Durham and Greater Manchester.

The funding was used for specific repairs to help bring land back into agricultural use, such as the repair and replacement of fencing and bridges, clearing debris deposited on land and rebuilding washout river banks.

Farming Minister George Eustice said: “I am delighted that over £1m of repairs have been completed and reimbursed by the government, helping flood-affected farmers get their businesses back on track to contribute to a thriving rural economy and world-leading food and farming industry.”

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) handled applications from farmers.

RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw added: “I would encourage those who have had their applications approved, to send their claims for completed work to us before the end of December deadline.”

Claims for completed repairs must be in by December 31.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) welcomed the new total funding figures.

The union’s flood management adviser Martin Rogers said: “The total amount claimed demonstrates the acute economic impact of flooding which affected thousands of farmers across the north of England over Christmas last year.

“This funding is vital to enable farmers to recover from the floods, for many this was not the first time they have been affected. While this announcement is a positive step, we must remember that over £8m in funding is yet to be processed and we will continue working with the RPA to ensure that all outstanding claims, once submitted, are processed as quickly as possible. We are also calling for a full review of this round of funding to highlight what has worked well and where changes could be made to streamline the process for the future.”

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) also called for changes to how the funding is managed in the future.

Libby Bateman, rural adviser for CLA North, said: “The priority is to create greater flexibility in the timings for carrying out work. Delays in issuing farmers and landowners with letters of approval for remedial work have meant that some have had to carry out time-critical repairs at the risk of not getting reimbursed.

“Coupled with delayed BPS payments, this has put a great deal of additional pressure on farm finances.”

Farmer, Richard Bramley, who runs an arable enterprise in Kelfield near York was among those who received funding after he lost around 30 acres of oilseed rape and 60 acres of wheat to the floods - costing him around £20,000 and seeing his wheat harvest fall by one tonne.

It was the eighth time that his land had been flooded since 2000 - compared to five times in total throughout the 20th century.

NFU Environment Forum member Mr Bramley, whose farm is one of dozens that acts as a floodplain to protect local homes, said: “We keep getting kicked in the teeth and this is the first time we have had such support so it is good to get some recognition.”

He said the scheme must be repeated in the future but that it should be expanded to remove discrepancies between what different types of farming operations can apply for funding for.