Struggling farmers and food producers are facing even more pressure in the wake of flooding caused by Storm Babet this week.
Huge tracts of land across the UK – from Scotland to the north of England and the Midlands – have been hit by flooding. This has pushed back the harvest of core crops and destroyed many varieties of next year’s supplies.
NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said hundreds of acres of productive farmland were underwater this week, with farmland made inaccessible.
Many of the union’s members were struggling to get crops out of the ground or were still to plant crops for next year, he added.
“Those crops that are in the ground are likely to rot, meaning the output and profitability of next year’s harvest is already seriously compromised, building on an unprecedented year in terms of weather and cost.
“Farmers and growers are now facing further financial burdens at a time when on-farm costs are already running high and government support payments are being phased out.”
His comments were echoed by Dan Parker, chief executive of vegetable charity, Veg Power, who said the flooding was just the latest thing to show “the dependability [of the seasons] has gone”.
Many farmers have also used X (Twitter), to share their harvesting challenges following the severe floods.
Chris White of Turves Farm in Cambridgeshire posted: “I can guarantee everyone will start complaining about the price of Fish and chips in the spring…” with a photo of flooded farmland.
Meanwhile, NFU president Minette Batters wrote of “desperate scenes right across the country and heartbreaking losses”.
In light of Storm Babet, the NFU has renewed calls for a government strategy on water management.
It said the government needed to “match its talk about the importance of UK food security with action on water management” to improve flood resilience.
“Despite what we’ve heard from government in recent times about the importance of UK food security, this just isn’t being reflected in policies on how the nation’s food production is valued, and how water infrastructure is managed,” said Bradshaw.
Central to this strategy, would be significant investment with upgrades of rural flood defences, drainage and waterways as well as regular maintenance, he added.
Bradshaw also said farmers who have been absorbing and holding flood water at personal cost to protect adjacent urban areas should be reimbursed for the service provided.
“Farming is on the front line of climate change and the sector is experiencing volatility and severe weather events more often,” he explained. “It’s why we absolutely need a long-term plan to improve how we manage water in times of flood and drought, as we regularly experience both on an annual basis, and both severely impact our ability to produce food.”