The government must start taking water-related issues seriously to protect productive farmland in the future, according to NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts.
Mr Roberts was speaking to delegates at Floodex/Irrigex in Peterborough - a trade event which looks at flood defence, prevention, mitigation and drainage.
During a keynote presentation, he highlighted how farming has been impacted by volatile weather events, highlighted the importance of internal drainage boards and explained why the government must have policies in place to protect a future supply of clean water.
Mr Roberts said: “Farmers bear the brunt of the impacts of extreme weather, its uncertainty and volatility. It’s not just a severe lack of water like we experienced during last summer’s agricultural drought but the flooding of agricultural land leading to a loss of crops and animals. Events like these expose the vulnerability of the farming sector.
“Farmers can be part of the solution and through internal drainage boards, created to manage intricate draining systems, help land flourish for agriculture, the environment and the communities that live there. The importance of these IDBs cannot be underestimated and the expertise and knowledge provided by farmers must be recognised. There must also be adequate funding to ensure that the great work farmers and IDBs are doing to protect people, property and livelihoods is not lost.
“The government has stated that 2019 is the year of green action. But what about blue? We really must start taking water-related issues seriously in order to safeguard this essential resource for the future and to protect productive farmland from predicted rises in sea level and increasingly frequent flooding.
“The farming industry is on the forefront of climate change impacts and producing safe, traceable and affordable food is a daily challenge for farmers. The lessons we have learned clearly identify what policies need to be in place to provide a clean water supply, ensure the future of the environment and deliver food security for the nation.”
More of the NFU's work for members on water: