The Keeping Our Rivers Flowing summit brought together farmers, land managers and flood management experts to discuss how flood storage and natural flood management can combine with river maintenance to reduce the risk of flooding.
It provided NFU members with an opportunity to put questions to Defra and the Environment Agency after hearing their plans for the future.
Defra presented plans for including natural flood management and river restoration in the new agricultural schemes, while the Environment Agency talked about its plans for the future of flood risk management. Concerns were raised over the increasing gap in funding when it comes to maintenance.
With 58% of the UK’s most productive and versatile land situated in the floodplain, flood risk management is vital to ensuring future food security.
NFU Environment Forum chair Richard Bramley spoke about his own experience of flooding on farm. He talked about the challenges of dealing with the increasing frequency of flooding events and stressed the need to move beyond words to seeing real improvements on the ground.
Richard emphasised the need for a whole catchment approach when making decisions, and to use long-term planning to incorporate changes in weather and development.
He highlighted that farmers across the country are ready and willing to help alleviate the flood risk to communities. However, he stressed that any measures which call on farmers and land managers to allow their land to be used as a flood storage area must ensure proper recognition for the public goods provided and provide fair compensation.
Some key points were agreed on the day.
NFU Environment Forum chair
He invests in his own professional development and is a member of Institute of Agricultural Management and a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv).
Richard is also actively involved with university research and education.
Alongside his arable operations, Richard is involved in a diverse range of environmental work on his farm, virtually all of which he has provided on a voluntary basis.
All watercourses are protected with 7m diverse margins, which include approximately 3ha with flowering plants. In addition, he has 1ha of land dedicated to providing overwintering bird food and 1ha of pollen and nectar mix to provide food for bees, butterflies and other insects.
He has approximately 8ha of grassland, which is mainly riverbanks and field corners, with no nutrient inputs, providing encouraging a diversity of plant species.
Roughly 12,000 of mixed hedgerow species types have been planted on Richard’s farm and 2,000 mixed trees.
A number of bird and bat boxes have been put in place around the farm, and in the past he has installed vole pontoons, kingfisher fishing stakes and a grass snake nest.
Since 2007, Richard has used 'cover cropping' on the farm, which is temporary crop and is used to preserve nutrients and protect soils at key times in the farming calendar, now covering over 50ha on one 200ha farm.
In addition, Richard grows between 7 and 8 different crop types which adds to the diversity on his farm.
Solar power generated on the farm provides 100% of electricity for Richard’s farmhouse, office and three holiday barns. All heating is provided by biomass generated on the farm.
Public engagement and engagement is important to Richard and he hosts visits for fellow farmers and other organisations with an interest in the countryside.
Richard said: "As land managers, farmers are central to making it possible to deliver good safe quality food and a practical level of biodiversity in a sustainable fashion.
"Yet the practicalities of being able to deliver this demand, in a very populated country and a hunger for cheap food, are far too often ignored.
"For British agriculture to face the challenges of the future, we need to do more to strengthen relationships and build confidence in the supply chain."
- A catchment-based approach to management is key.
- Collaboration and partnership working is vital.
- They may be different ideas of how to get there, but it seems everyone is heading in the same direction. Focusing on the commonalities is key to driving action.
To read more about our work and approach to flood management, download our Flooding Manifesto and our Integrated Water Management Strategy.