Richard Bramley, chair of the NFU Environment Forum, presented to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Flood Resilience Conference on Thursday, 4 March. The theme of the session was Agricultural Land and Opportunities for Flood Risk-Management Projects.
The conference explored how farmers and land managers could be rewarded for utilising their natural capital to provide flood-mitigation services. It also discussed whether a compensatory market could be established.
Richard is an arable farmer at Manor Farm, Kelfield, situated to the south of York. The farm grows a wide variety of crops, including milling wheat, malting barley (winter and spring), oilseed rape, sugar beet, potatoes, peas, beans and oats. Situated alongside the River Ouse, the farm has seen an ever-increasing amount of flooding in recent years.
Integrated water management
He highlighted the importance of getting water management right in the future and referenced the NFU’s Integrated Water Management Strategy (IWMS). The strategy looks at:
- the desperate need for long-term planning
- protection of productive farmland and
- funding for water management in rural and urban areas.
The report also highlights the key aspects needed for successful water management including, promoting the implementation of contingency planning on farms to tackle the dual risks of flooding and water supply disruption. In addition, the report discusses the need to understand better our water demand and the importance of acting to reduce waste and encourage best practice in the management of land and water.
“’Extreme event’ is now a term being used as an excuse for lack of management or the reason for the extensive flood impact,” said Mr Bramley, who went on to question whether funding efforts for flood risk management should be concentrated on ELMs – this may help to ensure the highest possible uptake and potentially limit the complexity of funding options. However, the funding asks on future ELMs seem never-ending. Other flood-defence funding, for example, Flood Defence Grant in Aid (FDGiA) will have to be made available in conjunction with ELMs to help cover capital costs.
He went on to highlight some of the key work farmers and growers are already adapting to make their businesses more resilient to extreme weather including:
- On-farm interventions to improve resilience including runoff attenuation features and SuDS.
- Adopting improved soil cultivation techniques to lock moisture into soils.
- Embracing on-farm flood and drought risk management and contingency planning by relying on improved forecasting of weather and water availability. Together with improved measuring and monitoring of water use and its impact on agricultural productivity and the environment.
Richard went on to point out that “Our strategy (IWMS) calls for leadership from government to drive forward these catchment solutions, including funding for storage, for the pumps and pipes, and for the kit to monitor and measure water use. Meanwhile, the development of regional water planning groups by government represents an important opportunity for us to work more closely with other sectors, whilst maintaining agility in our approach.”
He concluded by saying: “Farmers have a central role in the management of land to improve water quality and the improved management of water to tackle the dual challenges of floods and droughts – while enabling them to continue to feed the nation.”