Government widens farmers’ access to flooding recovery fund after complaints

The Government has widened access to a fund for farmers who have suffered severe impacts from flooding after “major issues” were pointed out by agricultural leaders.

It was announced on Tuesday that grants of between £500 and £25,000 under the Farming Recovery Fund would be paid to farmers hit by the damage from Storm Henk in early January.

The funding was designed to help farmers restore land to the condition it was in before heavy flooding due to Henk.

But originally only fields within 150 metres of a main river that had flooded were eligible for the compensation, leading to complaints from farmers.

Farming minister Mark Spencer
Farming minister Mark Spencer said ‘we’ll continue to listen to farmers’ (PA)

Farming minister Mark Spencer said: “We want to make sure the Farming Recovery Fund offers the support farmers need to recover from uninsurable damage.

“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.

“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.”

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) – which is warning of a building crisis in the agricultural sector due to the ongoing bad weather which has battered the country with heavy rain, winds and flooding – initially welcomed the scheme.

But NFU vice president Rachel Hallos said on Thursday it had “very quickly become clear that there are major issues” with the fund.

She added: “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.

“These include members with 90% of their land saturated or underwater, and huge damage to buildings and equipment.”

She said the farming body was taking the issue up with the Environment Department (Defra) urgently.

Flooded farmland
Eligible farmers are being contacted directly by the Rural Payments Agency (PA)

“I cannot believe this is what ministers intended when they launched the fund, which was a welcome and well-intentioned development which seems to have been fundamentally let down in the detail,” she said.

“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.”

The grants are initially open to farmers, to help them restore their land, in areas where a wider support scheme known as the “flood recovery framework” has been activated, to help farms which have experienced the highest levels of flooding, Defra said.

These are Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, West Northamptonshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.

Eligibility for funding in Berkshire, Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Norfolk and Derbyshire is under review, Defra added.

Eligible farmers are being contacted directly by the Rural Payments Agency, outlining the support available and how they can make a claim.