Inundated farmland and large round hay bales being washed away by the flooding of the River Eamont© Design Pics Inc/REX Shutterstock

Hundreds of farmers are still waiting for emergency relief funding to restore agricultural land affected by the winter floods.

Flood relief funding for businesses damaged by flooding caused by storms Desmond and Eva was set up by Defra in December.

Farmers in Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland, Yorkshire, County Durham and Greater Manchester whose farmland had been affected by the floods were invited to apply for grants worth up to £20,000 per individual business.

See also: Farmer survey reveals devastating legacy of floods

The grants were offered to help farmers suffering from uninsurable losses to restore farmland, rebuild tracks and repair drains and reinstate boundaries.

The deadline for Defra to receive applications for claims closed on 1 April this year – and on 15 May in Greater Manchester.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) received 1,100 applications from farmers, including 596 from Cumbria and 158 from Lancashire – the two worst-affected counties.

Waiting for payment

Lancashire farmer Allan Butler, whose business suffered £230,000 worth of damage in the floods, submitted a claim in March for just over £2,000 of repairs.

“We are still waiting to receive our money and I know many farmers who are also waiting for theirs,” said Mr Butler, who farms in Rufford.

“My ditches are full of soil and my drains are under water. The Environment Agency still hasn’t repaired the banking on my land.

“Cases like mine should have been given the money upfront. It has been bad enough trying to deal with nearly £250,000 of damage.”

NFU North West regional director David Hall said he was concerned farmers were completing work without any certainty they would be refunded.

“The application process was not just a case of filling in a form. Farmers needed to get three quotes for work and in some cases approval from the Environment Agency,” he added.

“Consequently, many claims would have been submitted in the last two to three weeks of March.”

NFU deputy president Minette Batters said she was less than impressed by the delays in paying farmers.

“These farmers have faced weeks of uncertainty over access to the flood recovery fund, piled on top of the delays to their BPS payments. This is totally unacceptable and must be resolved as a matter of urgency.”

‘Take photographs of flood damage and repairs’

In a letter sent to the NFU on 5 May, the RPA said it had received 600 of the 1,100 applications in the last week of March.

The letter said applicants could decide to undertake the works without knowing the outcome of their fund applications – but they would do so “at their own risk”.

The RPA urged farmers to take photographs of the damage before, during and after undertaking recovery works to support claims.

“Failure to provide relevant permissions and photographic evidence, as well as failing to undertake works to the specifications required and using invalid suppliers will mean we may not be able to pay your claim,” the RPA warned.

The RPA said it was working “as quickly as possible” to process flood claims.