The floods dominated last week’s NFU conference in Birmingham. Farming Minister George Eustice announced a £10 million Farming Recovery Fund, to which any farmer affected by flooding can apply for a grant of up to £5,000 to help restore land, drainage and access. Those whose land is still flooded will be entitled to the majority share of the money, with limits yet to be set-funding will only apply to uninsured losses. Eligible farmers should telephone 0300 060 2700 or email frf@ defra.gsi.gov.uk. Defra also has a £10 million Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme that will offer grants of up to £35,000 to safeguard businesses.
In his final speech as NFU president, Peter Kendall said the organisation was ‘truly appreciative’ of such help, but urged the Government to cut through the red tape that prevents landowners from maintaining waterways by cutting back vegetation and clearing silt. Last year, Defra introduced seven river-maintenance pilot projects-‘surely that’s got to happen on a massive scale across the country,’ Mr Kendall suggests. Cumbrian sheep farmer John Geldard adds: ‘We’ve come through a two-decade surge where environmental groups have had it all their own way, over and above the national interests of looking after the rivers in an appropriate manner-and that’s only one aspect. If you look around the perimeter of the UK, there’s a lot of land at risk if it’s not properly managed.’
CLA members in Somerset, which has been badly afflicted by the floods, have responded positively to Defra. ‘Members were particularly impressed with the Minister’s [Owen Paterson] clarity on his visit,’ says regional director John Mortimer. ‘He wanted to know what it used to be like, what it’s like now, where the problems lie and how to solve them. We are unanimous that everybody-including landowners- will have to put more money into the maintenance budget.’
Mr Kendall’s successor as president of the 55,000-member NFU is, as predicted, Welshman Meurig Raymond, his loyal deputy for eight years. He farms 3,400 acres-dairy and beef cattle, sheep, potatoes and arable crops-in Pembrokeshire with his twin brother. Minette Batters, a Wiltshire tenant farmer well-known as a promoter of British beef, makes history as the first woman to be deputy president. Essex farmer and entrepreneur Guy Smith was voted in as vice-president.
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