Farmers will benefit from new flexibility in water abstraction rules and the ability to trade water between farms to cope with the impacts of the ongoing hot, dry weather.
The news comes as the NFU today (1 August) hosted an agricultural drought summit with representatives from Defra, the Environment Agency (EA), Natural England, the RPA and other farming organisations to find short- and medium-term solutions to the challenges currently being faced by farmers and growers.
The Secretary of State for Food and the Environment Michael Gove heard first-hand from NFU farming leaders about the serious impacts on each of the farming sectors.
These included challenges with irrigation, water shortage, heat stress on livestock, crop loss and a shortage of forage for livestock.
The meeting also heard from farming charities, FCN and RABI, that the relentless pressure on farmers dealing with the drought-related issues and significant extra costs is leading to concerns about their mental and physical well-being.
NFU President Minette Batters said:
“The impacts of the dry and hot weather have been hugely challenging for many farms across the country, with many not seeing such weather in their lifetimes.
“Today’s summit was a wake-up call to government and policy makers about the importance of British food production and the critical need to manage the volatility that comes with it.
We were pleased to hear after the meeting, the Secretary of State said he would do ‘whatever it takes in order to make sure farmers can continue to run successful businesses and that food supplies can continue to be healthy.
“As we move towards a new domestic agricultural policy it’s vital that market failure and volatility are treated seriously alongside productivity and delivering for the environment in order that the nation continues to have access to British food which is high quality and produced to world leading standards.”
The summit also heard calls for more support for the logistics of transporting fodder to those most in need as well as speeding up BPS and Countryside Stewardship payments owed to farm businesses.
In an interview with Sky News after the event, Mr Gove said:
“We’ll make sure that farmers have what they need in order to provide us with high quality food and to ensure their businesses can survive in the future. We want to be flexible – we don’t want to allow bureaucracy to get in the way with providing farmers with the support that they deserve and that the country needs.”
The meeting drew significant press attention and has resulted in important progress in a number of areas that the NFU has been working on for members during the heatwave.
Farming weather summit: How the NFU led the way
Orchestrating the high-profile agricultural drought summit was a complex and complicated mission which needed the skills, experience and contacts of multiple teams across the NFU.
In the first instance, the NFU needed a clear picture of the main challenges faced by farmers, the severity and the scope, and the different regional and sectoral nuances.
Through the NFU's farmer-led board and forum structure, along with its network of regional employees working at a grassroots level, the full and accurate impact of the weather was quickly identified.