Flood-hit farmers ask government to invest in river defences to protect UK food production

Flood-hit farmers are calling on the government to invest more in river defences in rural areas to protect UK food production.

A BBC report says thousands of acres of crops and productive farmland are now sitting under floodwater left by Storm Henk.

The NFU says farmers who are expected to let fields of crops flood to protect towns should also be compensated.

A government spokesperson said £221m was being spent on maintaining flood defences in 2023 and 2024.

Persistent wet weather over the Christmas period and New Year has caused further damage to farms that had already been hit by Storms Babet and Ciaran in the autumn.

45-year-old third-generation tenant farmer Ollie Stobo, who farms cereal crops on 500 acres of land near Witney in Oxfordshire, has been hit by floodwaters for the seventh time in two years.

Two fields – a tenth of the farm – are currently underwater after the River Evenlode flooded this week.

One field had already been too wet to drill and plant the normal winter crop after the autumn’s heavy rainfall; the second had stubble turnips planted, which a neighbour’s sheep grazed.

Mr Stobo told the BBC. that “The sheep down there were marooned and we had to get then out fairly quickly because the river levels were coming up so quickly.”

Some local farmers in the area are members of the North East Cotswolds Farming Cluster, which brings together almost 140 farms, covering 42,000 hectares, to work on landscape-scale environmental schemes.

This includes turning fields into wetland habitats designed to take the River Evenlode’s flood waters and prevent flooding in Oxford itself.

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