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:

Storm Ciara, Storm Dennis and future events

Storm Ciara hit Britain 8-9 February leading to extreme localised flooding of agricultural land especially in the north of England, and widespread damage to structures from gale force winds.

Following a relatively dry January which allowed farmers to make some headway with much awaited land work, the ground returned to a saturated state after some parts of the country received three-quarters of average February rainfall in 24 hours.

Storm Dennis led to extensive flooding over the weekend 15-16 February. Click here to read more about the impacts of Storm Dennis around the country.

The Environment Agency has advised continued vigilance as more flooding is expected due to delayed catchment response times and further wet and windy conditions.

This period of wet weather has arrived soon after the end of NVZ closed periods for many and may hamper efforts to empty slurry stores. The NFU is reminding members of the environmental risks of spreading in such conditions and you are urged to contact your local Environment Agency officer to find a solution. Click here for NFU guidance on Environment Agency advice on slurry spreading in wet conditions.

NFU members: Click here for a detailed briefing from the NFU's advisers

This briefing is accessible to NFU members only - you will be asked to log in.

How to log in: Use your membership number or the email address associated with your membership to log in. If you've forgotten your password, you can click here to reset it or contact NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.

What is the NFU doing to assist members?

The NFU continues to raise awareness of the impacts of extreme weather, such as Storm Ciara, on members with the RPA and Defra.

The NFU has been providing advice on steps to take before, during and after a storm event and NFU CallFirst has been providing advice to flood-hit members.

In summary:

  • The NFU has worked with the RPA to ask for force majeure to be considered for farmers in agri-environment schemes.
  • The NFU has raised with the Minister of State the need for leniency on the greening crop diversification rule to help ease the pressures farmers are struggling against to drill 2020 harvest crops. The NFU has worked with the RPA to clarify the current rules on failed crops and temporary flooded land too.
  • The NFU worked hard last year to ensure that members who were impacted by flooding received BPS payments as early as possible when the payment window opened in December. If you are struggling after being flood-hit and haven’t received BPS, ES or CS payments, please raise the matter with NFU CallFirst on 0370 8458458.
  • The NFU continues to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining flood defence assets which are crucial to protecting agricultural land.
  • The NFU would also like to ask the Environment Agency (EA) to be pragmatic when considering any issues linked to the Farming Rules for Water during this wet weather period.
  • The NFU would like the EA to ensure local officers consistently provide the assistance and flexibility needed to help farmers find slurry storage solutions during wet weather periods.

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.

Click here for goverment guidance if your land has been flooded - including information on:

Step 2:

If you are concerned about compliance with the greening crop diversification and EFA rules the NFU can help. Contact NFU CallFirst 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.

Need to communicate an accurate location quickly?

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.

Financial assistance and forage aid

Forage Aid is the charity that supports farmers whose livestock has been affected by an extreme weather event by providing forage and/or bedding to those in need. The Forage Aid team is on standby to assist farmers affected by Storm Dennis.

Contact the Forage Aid helpline: 07967 219991

R.A.B.I is releasing money from its Crisis Fund to provide emergency grants to farming families via its Helpline.

Contact R.A.B.I: 0808 281 9490

The Prince's Countryside Fund assists in emergency situations. Click here for more details. 

November 2019 flooding

Farming Recovery Fund

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

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

On 6 January 2020, Defra opened the application window for this second phase of funding. Farmers with affected land in parts of South Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and the Midlands, including areas within Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire can now apply to the fund.

The NFU has worked closely with Defra on behalf of members throughout the flooding incidents. This work has resulted in the inclusion of some parts of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire that were not originally going to be included as eligible areas under the fund. Another major win for the NFU is the inclusion of cover crops as an eligible item.

Read more about this second phase of funding at NFUonline.

How can I claim funding?

Check online at for full details of which areas are eligible, what is covered and how to apply for funding. All farmers whose land has been flooded can access existing guidance around CAP payments at the website here.

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.


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.


Every catchment is different and therefore a management technique in one may not be the best suited, required or feasible in another. This could be due to a plethora of reasons from ecological, economical or logistical.

What is important is the management of water in catchments through appropriate conveyance. Conveyance in this instance can be defined as the action or process of transporting or carrying water and material from one place to another.?

Read our briefing and find links to the Environment Agency's perspective on dredging. 

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.

Click here to download the NFU's Flooding Manifesto

flooding manifesto web teaser image, january 2017_40584

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 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.


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 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.

Further information:

  • 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 !!!