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The scheme, which offered up to £25,000 to eligible farmers, has been ‘fundamentally let down in the detail’ 

The NFU has published an updated statement on the recently announced Farming Recovery Fund, highlighting “major issues” with its execution.

The government launched the fund at the start of the week to support farmers who suffered uninsurable damage to their land due to flooding this winter.

Under the scheme, the government said eligible farmers would be able to access between £500 and £25,000 of grant money to return their land to the condition it was in before “exceptional flooding” due to Storm Henk in January.

However, today, NFU vice president Rachel Hallos said “it has quickly become clear that there are major issues”.

“We are hearing from numerous members who have suffered catastrophic impacts who have been told they are not eligible for the fund because some of their affected areas are more than 150 metres from ‘main’ rivers,” she said. “These include members with 90% of their land saturated or underwater, and huge damage to buildings and equipment.”

The concerns were echoed by Nottinghamshire-based cereals farmer John Charles-Jones who is not eligible for the scheme and says the government has made itself look “so stupid”.

He said, ”I just fell off my chair in disgust when I read the eligibility criteria because it’s I think it’s the most ill thought out scheme I can remember”. 

Flooding to Charles-Jones’ farm has come through heavy rain turning gulleys on his land into streams which has caused significant soil erosion including holes of up to seven feet deep and has destroyed a culvert on his property making a quarter of his farmland inaccessible to machinery. 

He is also now looking at 85% of his land not being sowed which he said would be “very serious” for his business and without support will have to use a significant chunk of reserve money. 

“We’ve got to find a way around it whether or not we get any government help but some people will go to the wall over this, especially if they’re tenents and they’ve got no reserves, without significant help from government they could easily risk losing their business,” he said.

He also warned that it would not only be crop farmers who would be impacted by this with lower straw supplies in the autumn also likely to have a knock on effect on arable farmers. 

“It’s going to take six to 12 months to unpack the cost of the storms of this winter,” he said.

Hallos added the union was speaking to Defra urgently on this matter and highlighted that it was a “welcome and well-intentioned development which seems to have been fundamentally let down in the detail”.

“While the impact of the weather goes far beyond Storm Henk, this could have been a good start but, as it stands, it simply doesn’t work.”

Following these concerns, Defra has announced changes to the eligibility criteria, removing the 150m limit. However, it has maintained the rule that eligibility is based on being flooded by a “eligible river”. 

“We want to make sure the Farming Recovery Fund offers the support farmers need to recover from uninsurable damage,” said farming Minister Mark Spencer.

“It’s why we’ve immediately listened and responded to feedback on the launch of the initial phase of this scheme, fully removing the 150m limit,” he added. “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.”