Farming Recovery Fund – Defra lifts 150m eligibility rule

12 April 2024

Environment and climate
A person wearing wellies stood in a muddy puddle

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.

After extensive talks with the NFU, Defra has now reversed the 150 metre rule, with farmers now able to receive payments for all land parcels in the named, eligible areas.

The Farming Recovery Fund was announced in January in the aftermath of Storm Henk to help those affected, with eligible farmers set to access grant support of up to £25,000.

The support has been made available through the Flood Recovery Framework, which is used in exceptional circumstances to support councils and communities following severe flooding.

The RPA (Rural Payments Agency) is administering the fund on behalf of Defra, with landowners or tenant farmers who occupied eligible land parcels at the time of Storm Henk able to claim £130 per hectare for recultivation work.

Welcome step but more support still needed

The NFU has welcomed the removal of the limit but urged the government to consider farmers not covered by the fund who have been heavily impacted by flooding. 

NFU Vice President Rachel Hallos said: “We are pleased the government has listened to our concerns and removed the 150 metre rule which was a barrier to many flooded farms accessing this fund. But we are still working through the complex detail of these changes to ensure the worst affected businesses are eligible.

“There are still many farm businesses in dire need of support as we face into one of the wettest years on record – extremes which could become the norm. There are farmers with fields that have been underwater since October, unable to plant crops or put livestock out to graze, who still cannot access the fund, and the impact of the continuing rain on spring lambing is very distressing.

There are still many farm businesses in dire need of support as we face into one of the wettest years on record – extremes which could become the norm.”

NFU Vice President Rachel Hallos

“We continue to talk to government about the details of the scheme and urge them to consider long-term support for farmers to prepare, adapt and recover from the impacts of chronic rainfall and waterlogged ground, which isn’t addressed by the fund.”

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said the government had “immediately listened and responded to feedback on the launch of the initial phase of this scheme, fully removing the 150m limit”.

“This means that farmers will be able to receive payments for all land parcels which are flooded contiguous to an eligible river. We’ll continue to listen to farmers and look at how we can expand the scheme and improve support for those affected,” he added.

Writing on X, NFU member and Lincolnshire arable farmer Henry Ward said he thought the change was a “step in the right direction” after previously being told he was ineligible despite the fact his farmland has been underwater for the past six months.

Who is eligible?

The grant is to support the cost of recultivating and reinstating agricultural land that was flooded due to notably high river levels between 2-12 January 2024, caused by Storm Henk.

Eligible farmers can access grants of between £500 and £25,000 to return their land to the condition it was in before exceptional flooding due to Storm Henk.

The eligible counties and rivers announced at this time are listed below:

  • Gloucestershire – River Severn, River Thames and River Avon
  • Leicestershire – Rothley Brook, River Wreake and River Soar
  • Lincolnshire – River Witham, River Brant, River Welland, River Ancholme
  • Nottinghamshire – River Trent, River Devon and River Soar
  • Somerset – River Brue, River Exe, River Parrott and River Tone
  • Warwickshire – River Avon and River Leam
  • West Northants – River Nene and River Gt Ouse
  • Wiltshire – River Avon (Hants), River Avon (Bristol), River Kennet, River Thames, River Bourne and River Wylye
  • Worcestershire – River Severn, River Teme and River Avon

Counties under review at this stage are Berkshire, Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Norfolk and Derbyshire. The NFU pressed for the inclusion of additional counties, following feedback from its membership.

How to claim

The RPA is contacting those landowners and tenant farmers that they believe are eligible having used satellite imagery and river gauge level data to work out which land parcels were flooded between 2-12 January 2024.

The following criteria will also be taken into account when contacting those eligible:

  • Eligible agricultural land parcels flooded contiguous to an eligible river.
  • Land will not be eligible if it is in a designated flood storage area.
  • Land parcels included under the Countryside Stewardship scheme that have flood resilience options (SW12, 15 and 16) claimed are not eligible.
  • Land parcels must be registered as agricultural land in the Rural Payments service.

The RPA will be emailing landowners or tenant farmers identified as eligible with details of their eligible land parcels and links to the download table claim form and full guidance.

You will not be expected to have completed the recultivation work at the time of submitting a claim but commit that the work will be completed by the end of September 2024. The deadline for submitting a claim is 10 July 2024.

More information about the fund and the eligibility criteria will be available through Farming Recovery Fund guidance produced by the RPA.

The Farming Recovery Fund is triggered following exceptional weather events and was last made available in 2019/20.

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This page was first published on 08 January 2024. It was updated on 12 April 2024.

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