Advice for members affected by flooding

Flooding advice_70364

Here you'll find advice for dealing with flooding on your land as well as details of some of the work the NFU is doing to help ease the pressures farmers are facing in the current weather conditions.

Click on the links below to jump straight to a particular section:

*Updated 25 November*
Advice for members in the East Midlands from the regional office

*Updated 22 November*
Flooding and Wet Weather: Advice, key asks and messaging - read the briefing

Have you been affected? Steps to take now:

Here's the first steps to take if you and your farm business have been hit by wet weather.

Step 1:

Report incidents to the Environment Agency incident hotline by calling 0800 80 70 60. 

Remember to keep a record of what you report, and when.  

You should also start to gather evidence including videos, pictures and flooding impacts on your farm separately. Take photos of everything damaged by flood water to support claims. Even low value items can amount to considerable sums when added together. Trying to evidence loss after an event can be difficult.

Step 2:

If you are concerned about compliance with the greening crop diversification and EFA rules the NFU can help. Contact our CallFirst team on 0370 845 8458 and let them know the following:

  • How extreme weather has impacted your farm business
  • How your 2020 harvest crop diversification plan has been impacted.

The NFU will then collate this information to support any asks of government to help you update your plans and receive funding.

Farming Recovery Fund

The government announced on 13 November that it will extend its Farming Recovery Fund to support those affected by the recent flooding across Yorkshire and the Midlands.

Through the scheme, farmers and land managers who have suffered uninsurable damage to their property will be able to apply for grants of between £500 and £25,000 to cover repair costs – whether that’s clearing debris or recovering damaged land.

Guidance on how to apply will be published shortly on the Gov.uk website - click here to bookmark the page.

The RPA is currently working on the criteria and mechanism for applications to the fund. Further scheme details are not expected for a few weeks. This page will be updated with more information as it becomes available. It is important to note that the scheme will be open to those in yet to be determined areas in Yorkshire and the Midlands.

In the meantime, you can click here to find out more about the Farming Recovery Fund.

Where to go for further help and advice:

Click here to visit the YANA website for contact details for organisations that can provide additional support, including R.A.B.I., and the Farming Community Network.

You can also get more information on dealing with stressful and challenging situations by visiting the NHS England Every Mind Matters website. 

Keep checking back at the NFUonline weather channel for updates on flood alerts and more information on dealing with adverse weather.

Key advice for staying safe and protecting your business

Act quickly if a flood alert is raised

1.    Plan an escape route

Make sure you have an evacuation plan so that you and your family stay safe. Keep contact details to hand of people who can help you move your animals in an emergency.

2.    Ensure you can be contacted in an emergency

Keep your phone charged up and stay in contact with people around you.

3.    If time allows and the escape route is safe, move livestock and horses to higher ground and provide feed and water.

If animals are stranded and there is no accessible escape route do not attempt rescue. Do not put your life or the lives of others at risk. Contact the emergency services or the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 for help.

Other key things to consider

Agri-environment schemes

If an agreement holder is prevented from complying with obligations associated with an agri-environment scheme they must contact RPA within 15 days from the date on which they are in a position to do so and provide written evidence to show what has happened and how this has led to them being unable to meet the scheme rules.

EA advice: Slurry spreading in wet conditions

Click here for advice on what you need to do to contact the Environment Agency to discuss options if your store is at risk of causing pollution and you cannot avoid spreading when you think there is a risk of slurry runoff, run-through to land drains or leaching, or you will breach an NVZ condition.

Planning and preparation

  • Click here to sign up for EA flood alerts
  • Make sure livestock have high land or prepare to move livestock out of harm’s way if there is a flood warning in your area.
  • Identify machinery, tools or stock that could be moved to prevent loss or damage.
  • Consider how you’ll alert staff about a flood warning and how they can help you to prepare.
  • Ensure any chemical or fuels are secure to prevent contamination during a flood.

Watercourses

Remember your responsibilities if you are a riparian owner. Check the NFU’s Water Maintenance Solutions guidance pack for more information.

Report any issues with main rivers to the EA or with ordinary watercourses report the issue to an Internal Drainage Board (if in a drainage district) or to the Local Authority.

Flooded agricultural land is still eligible for BPS if the flooding is temporary and the land would otherwise still be available for agricultural activity. Activities that take place with EA to manage floodwater positively and proactively will be considered on a case by case basis, although any agricultural land that floods temporarily would remain eligible.

What is the NFU doing?

The NFU would like the Environment Agency (EA) to ensure local officers consistently provide the assistance and flexibility needed to help farmers find slurry storage solutions throughout NVZ closed periods.

The NFU has written to Defra Minister George Eustice asking for an extension to the restrictions associated with the disposal, storage and use of chlorothalonil. With the delayed drilling scenario set out above, it is highly likely that some crops will not be drilled to allow applications which would normally have taken place by 20 May. The NFU is therefore asking that the dates for sale and supply and disposal, storage and use are extended by two months to 20 July 2020. It has also asked for the removal of the 31 December label restriction which appeared on some flurtamone products to allow use up to the 27 March 2020, the final use date set by the EU.

In both these two issues, failure to extend grace periods may result in large amounts of unused product left in the supply chain and on farm. This would result in financial burdens on the industry to fund disposal, whereas the least cost and least risk solution would be to allow these products to be applied as part of the planned crop production process.

The NFU would also like to ask the EA to be pragmatic when considering any issues linked to the ‘farming rules for water’ during this wet weather period.

The NFU has over recent weeks been raising the impact of extreme weather on members from the extreme weather situation with the RPA and Defra. The NFU has been covering a range of issues such as the need for prompt 2019 payments for all schemes and the need for the RPA to look at ways to help farmers needing to comply with scheme rules such as crop diversification. In summary:

  • The NFU is working with the RPA to ask for force majeure to be considered for farmers in agri-environment schemes.
  • The NFU is investigating potential leniency on the three crop rule to help ease the pressures farmers are facing due to being unable to drill winter crops. This has already been raised with the RPA.
  • The NFU continues to work with the RPA to ensure members who have been impacted by flooding receive BPS payments as early as possible when the payment window opens on 2 December. The NFU is discussing this issue at all levels of the RPA.

See also: Win for NFU as government makes funding available for flood-hit farmers

Long-term asks from government

The NFU would like for there to be a review of the Flood Defence Grant in Aid cost-benefit analysis so that it sufficiently values agricultural land.

Farmers who are intentionally flooded in order to protect people and property are performing a public good and should therefore be reimbursed for the public good being provided.

The NFU would like to see the EA prioritise essential maintenance of flood defence assets and watercourses which have been neglected for decades.

The NFU would like to encourage the EA to improve communications on flood risk: systems for communicating with those affected must be accurate and reach the most remote communities, providing sufficient time for response.

With the government’s targets for increased housing, with 50% of the proposed new homes planned on being built on floodplains, local authorities are looking to Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) to protect homes from flooding. In order for this to be a viable option, Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 must be fully implemented. This will ensure that SuDS are maintained for the lifespan of the development and that farmers are not responsible for said maintenance or liable for the SuDS.

Finally, the NFU would encourage the government to amend the Land Drainage Act 1991 to allow for the creation or expansion of Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs). IDBs are dealing with more and more water from urban expanses, our farming members in Internal Drainage Districts pay their drainage charges however, the urban areas being protected are not, and without the amendment to the Land Drainage Act this is not possible.

Wet weather impacts on agriculture

Farmers are susceptible to volatile weather and continually bear the brunt of the impacts associated with climatic extremes which are becoming increasingly unpredictable. Future climate change scenarios suggest that we will have wetter winters, however so far this meteorological winter farmers in England and Wales have had very few dry days. Rainfall in England for September 2019 was 97.5% higher than that during September 2018. The prolonged and extreme (albeit localised) wet weather is having huge impacts on farming businesses across the country. This includes, but is not limited to:

Arable

Arable farmers are experiencing a severe delay to drilling of winter cereals. The very rapid switch from a dry August to a wet October has saturated and compacted the soil. In the main production regions, members were waiting for weed seeds to germinate before planting. This happened slower than expected due to the dry September. Also, due to the loss of neonicotinoid seed dressings there is a need to plant winter crops even later in the autumn to reduce the risk of virus infection, which is spread by aphids. Farmers are using more cultural methods to control grass weeds and virus spread, including planting crops later in the autumn. Reports from NFU members suggest that some farmers have not managed to drill any winter crops which would usually be completed by now.

Harvesting

Farmers and growers will avoid harvesting in such wet conditions as they are aware that it can be damaging to the soil.

Potatoes: Potato growers are weeks behind with harvest as they are struggling to get onto the land due to the saturated ground.

Sugar beet: Growers have also been hit by the wet weather. The main issue has been with harvesting. Ground conditions have been unsuitable for harvesting especially in the Northern and Eastern growing areas. Accessing the ground is the main issue, but on heavier land, very wet soil is also hard to separate from the beet if harvesting is attempted in such conditions.

NVZ areas

Farmers in NVZ areas are also facing the impact of the wet weather. In some areas, farmers have not been able to spread slurry for the past six weeks and many fear that they will not have enough storage through the closed period. Click here for advice on what you need to do to contact the Environment Agency to discuss options

Flood water storage

Farmland is increasingly being used for the temporary storage of flood water in order to protect downstream urbanised areas from flooding.

Livestock

Livestock farming members have reported difficulties in drilling grass leys. In some parts of the country farmers have also had to bring livestock in two weeks earlier than usual, leading to a longer winter period.

Advice from NFU Mutual

NFU Mutual is supporting farmers whose homes, farms and businesses have been damaged by the floods in Yorkshire, the Midlands and North Lincolnshire. It has activated its emergency claims plan to provide essential help to members hit by heavy rainfall and flooding. This has involved a team of agricultural specialist loss adjusters who have been on standby to support affected farms.

Tom Simpson, property claims manager at NFU Mutual, said:

“At NFU Mutual we have a strong local presence and we deployed our forces on the ground very quickly to support flood damaged homes, farms and businesses.

“Our local teams have been busy over the last few days making immediate emergency payments and arranging alternative accommodation for our customers. We’re now working with expert partners and specialists to assess the damage, get repairs underway and ensure our members are cared for.”

NFU Mutual advice on preparing your farm against flooding:

  • Work out a farm flood plan so that if the worst does happen everybody knows what action to take and who is responsible for what.
  • Identify higher ground that livestock can be moved to if water levels rise. If you're renting land in a low-lying area it's worth speaking with neighbouring landowners to obtain permission to move livestock to their higher ground.
  • Move vulnerable machinery stock and veterinary resupplies to safe locations if flooding is forecast.
  • Safely store fuels and chemicals that could pollute water courses in the event of flooding.
  • Look at your farming practices and how these could impact on flooding and water penetration. Take steps to reduce soil compaction in fields and think about creating runoff ponds. 
  • Think about flood resilience measures for buildings which could be vulnerable to flooding. Think about locating electrical sockets and wiring higher up walls so that they're not susceptible to flooding if water gets in. 
  • If you're planning to invest in new buildings, speak to your insurer first to ensure that they can provide flood cover at that specific location. 

NFU Mutual's emergency contact number is 0800 282 652 or contact your local office.


    Last edited on: 28:11:2019

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  • Posted by: john e breedonPosted on: 13/11/2019 16:45:21

    Comment: Our main draining river, the river Smite has not been dredged since the 90's since the last flood, there is now a predominance of willows growing on the river banks and even the bottom (15ft high) hence damning the river. The roads to the village have become impassable to some cars at times and horse paddocks are flooded so it becomes more of a general public as well as a farmer problem! The Environment Agency need a wake up call when we are no longer able to plant food crops and people are having their homes flooded then I am afraid wildlife has less of a priority !!!

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