Last straw for farmers as Government fails to act on drought promises, says NFU

The NFU has today made renewed appeals to Secretary of State Michael Gove to assist farm businesses still suffering from the impacts of agricultural drought, having seen little Government action since the NFU’s emergency summit on 1 August.

NFU President Minette Batters, who wrote to the Secretary of State last month on this subject, said governments in Scotland, Wales and even across Europe are showing understanding of the severity of the agricultural drought and have put in place measures to assist farm businesses to help with the dire impacts. For farmers in England, she says, the situation is very different.

Batters added: “We admired the Secretary of State’s words of reassurance when he attended the NFU’s agricultural drought summit last month, but we are yet to see meaningful assistance to farmers who have to deal with the long-term impacts of the extreme weather.

“We have prompted the Secretary of State to, as a priority, be flexible on CAP greening rules and agri-environment schemes. These rules and schemes, as it stands, mean many farmers can’t graze or cut grass from certain areas of land. But Government can apply to the EU Commission for a derogation to allow farmers to graze or cut grass from this land temporarily.

“Without these derogations, farmers face huge uncertainty over whether feed stocks will last the forthcoming winter and what increasing costs they will be facing if they don’t.

“We have also called for additional flexibility on water abstraction licensing, support for additional forage and bedding costs and improved cashflow – and that means speeding up payments that are well overdue for the hundreds of farmers who have been expecting this much-needed cash injection.    

“The Secretary of State said he would do ‘whatever it takes in order to make sure farmers can continue to run successful businesses’ after the summit last month. This is Government’s opportunity to show meaningful support for the British farms that have been left so exposed to the extreme weather. We know the Secretary of State values British food production, but – despite the recent turn in the weather – we still need to see action. A bit of rain does not wash the problems away.”

New results from a survey of over 600 NFU members on the impact of the drought show 71% have suffered a negative impact from the weather. Over three-quarters (78%) of farmers using forage expect a shortfall in feed reserves this winter. And of the farmers growing spring crops, 90% say they are growing poorer than expected.

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