NFU secures greater support from Farming Recovery Fund

Environment and climate
Flooded potato crops

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

Defra has updated the eligibility criteria of its Farming Recovery Fund so that more farmers whose land has been severely affected by flooding and wet weather, and who are likely to need to do work to remediate land to make it possible to farm it in future, will be eligible. Payments will be made this summer.

The Farming Recovery Fund opened in April, with eligible farmers set to access grant support of up to £25,000.

The NFU raised concerns over the eligibility criteria after the fund opened, with support originally limited to land located within 150 metres of eligible rivers in regions hit hardest by Storm Henk. This rule has since been reversed.

The scheme has now been expanded to include a wider geographical area of farmers who suffered river flooding. It now also includes those who experienced damage due to extreme rainfall.

Measures will provide ‘critical relief’

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

“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.”

The announcement follows the wettest 18 months since 1836, which has 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 Wales.

Delinked payments brought forward

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 experienced damage due to extreme rainfall as well as river breaches.

These measures will provide critical relief to many businesses which have been teetering on the brink because of ever-increasing, tightening cashflow.”

NFU President Tom Bradshaw

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, Defra Secretary of State Steve Barclay also said the NFU’s proposals for government-backed loans merit detailed consideration.

This 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 (Farm Business Investment Loans) 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.

“I’m particularly pleased that the Secretary of State is supporting serious consideration of our proposed loans,” Tom added.

“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.”

How do I access the support?

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.

There will be a flat payment rate, set in bands related to farm size, with the minimum being £2,895, with up to £25,000 at the top end. There will be no need for the business to prove entitlement; Defra will use mapping data to determine flooded land close to rivers, in counties most affected by flooding over this period, as well as rainfall data to establish other areas across the country which have experienced 70% higher rainfall than usual.

Farmers already contacted by the RPA and advised they are entitled to funding through the existing Storm Henk scheme will still be eligible as previously advertised and will receive at least the amount they’ve already been offered. They will receive payments based on the updated bands and minimum amount.

Defra has said farmers will have ‘the flexibility to spend the grant appropriately in their context and will not have to provide evidence of damage or costs or make further claims’.

The NFU will look over the detail of this scheme and publish more information when it becomes available.

For more information, visit: GOV.UK | Farming Recovery Fund expanded.

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