NFU secures greater support for farm businesses after period of record wet weather

24 May 2024

Flooded farmland in the Norfolk Broads.

The government has listened to the NFU’s call for greater government support to help more farm businesses recover after relentless heavy rain and devastating flooding across the country.

It comes after the wettest 18 months since 1836 which have left vast swathes of agricultural land saturated and, in many cases, still under water. Many arable farmers have been unable to plant crops and have lost those that were in the ground, while livestock farmers have endured an incredibly difficult lambing season. With farm business planning needing long-term stability, many farms will be dealing with the impacts for months and even years to come.

A recent NFU survey highlighted the toll this has taken on farm business confidence, which has hit an all-time low across England and Wales1.

The government has now taken on board more of the NFU’s asks which will help more farmers and growers get the support they need to recover and rebuild. These include:

  • Measures to improve on farm cash flow, with the second instalment (50%) of delinked payments moving forward to September rather than December, and reaffirmation that members will receive the first instalment (50%) in August.
  • Widening the scope of the Farm Recovery Fund to offer support to farms which have been damaged due to extreme rainfall as well as river breaches2.

In a post on X, Defra Secretary of State Steve Barclay has also said the NFU’s proposals for government-backed loans merit detailed consideration3. These loans would help with cashflow, support farm business resilience and bolster longer-term investment across UK farming.

NFU President Tom Bradshaw said: “After months of discussions, it’s really good news that the government has listened to our calls for additional financial support for farm businesses.

“Against the backdrop of some of the most challenging commercial and weather conditions in living memory, which has resulted in plummeting business confidence, these measures will provide some critical relief to many member businesses which have been facing a very uncertain future because of exceptional cashflow pressures.

“I’m particularly pleased that the Secretary of State is supporting serious consideration of our proposed loans. While we understand any decision will be delayed due to the general election, we will continue to work with the future government on this proposal as we know how beneficial it would be in stabilising cashflow, building resilience and enabling investment, all of which are crucial to our national food security.

“The measures announced today will not solve all the issues we’re facing on farm, but I am confident they will go some way to lifting some of the immediate strain on family farms and help farmers and growers to get back to doing what they do best – producing high quality, sustainable food for the British people.”

Notes to editor:

  1. Read more about the NFU’s Farmer Confidence Survey.
  2. As part of the measures announced today, Defra will be writing to affected businesses in areas that have experienced exceptional levels of rainfall and outline what they are entitled to. Payment rates will be in bands related to size, with the minimum being £2,895 up to £25,000 at the top end. There will be no need for the business to prove entitlement as it will be based on the data analysis Defra has done.
  • More information on the Farm Recovery Fund (FRF) and what the NFU lobbied for:
  • When the FRF was initially announced, it was only available to a group of areas close to rivers in Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, West Northamptonshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. But there was a commitment at the time to consider expanding this to other counties.
  • After receiving full details of the FRF, further discussions between the NFU and Defra led to Defra scrapping the rules limiting support to farms only within 150 metres of certain watercourses.
  1. The Defra Secretary of State iterated his support on X. Here’s more information about the NFU’s proposed Farm Business Investment Loans (FBILs):
  • These would be a government-backed loan scheme which would be simple to apply for, and for banks to approve. The central feature of these FBILs would be a low fixed rate of interest for farm businesses and an initial 12-month capital repayment holiday, with government covering the residual interest with lenders. The significant cash injection FBILs could provide, at a comparatively low cost to government, may mean the difference between businesses remaining commercially viable or not over the next 12-18 months.