Farmers have met with environment minister Rory Stewart today to explain how crucial a secure supply of water is for their fruit and vegetable businesses.
A delegation of NFU members representing the field vegetable, soft and top fruit sectors were invited to Westminster by the minister to talk about the proposed changes to water abstraction.
They described their businesses, their reliance on a secure supply of water to grow food, and their view on the prospect of long term water abstraction reform.
NFU members took the opportunity to stress their need for a guaranteed supply of water to carry them through dry and drought years and expressed their fears that, as a result of abstraction reform, the future allocation of water could be constrained to levels of historic ‘base years’.
They also explained why their ability to grow food could be particularly compromised if the base years chosen as a reference period were based on past average or wet years, or if those years failed to take account of more recent business growth.
NFU water specialist Paul Hammett, who accompanied the group of farmers from the south and east, said: “The minister was really interested in modern food production methods and water efficiency techniques employed on our members’ farms.
"He quizzed them on the mechanics of supply contracts in some detail and with genuine interest; and he wanted to know how we can satisfy the needs of consumers without resorting to more food imports.
“The government wants abstraction reform to deliver a system whereby water use is aligned more closely to water availability, so allowing all users greater access to surplus water but restricting their access when supplies are limited. It follows that the ability to capture and store water for use during times of scarcity will be crucial, and farmers took this chance to tell the minister that the removal of current fiscal and regulatory barriers to more reservoir construction projects was long overdue.”