17 November 2000

Unions call for emergency aid in wake of flood chaos

By Alistair Driver

and Robert Davies

FARMING unions in England and Wales have been calling for government action this week as the severity of the damage caused by recent flooding continued to emerge.

Farm minister, Nick Brown, was presented with a "dossier of chaos" outlining the impact of the autumn floods on Britains farms by NFU president, Ben Gill, yesterday (Thurs), who said he wanted to show the government how it could help farmers.

He told the minister next years harvest was under threat as a consequence of the floods and called for earlier handouts of Arable Area Payments.

Meanwhile both Welsh farming unions have appealed to the Welsh National Assembly for realistic direct emergency aid for farmers who already faced a serious financial crisis before the deluge. They also want money to be spent on the whole rural infrastructure.

"Years of under-investment in the maintenance of roadside ditches and culverts made the impact of the heavy rain much worse," said Gwynfor Jones, NFU branch secretary for the Wrexham area, which was badly hit when the River Dee engulfed farmland.

"Much of the maize crop was contaminated by dirty flood water and winter cereals were wiped out. Bridges on rural roads and the roads themselves are damaged, including the Horseshoe Pass above Llangollen which many farmers use to take stock to Ruthin Market."

On Tuesday the milk tanker still could not reach George Goodwins Almere Farm at Rossett, Flintshire. He poured away 1200 litres of milk for the 14th day and Gwynfor Jones had to inform him that the income lost was a non-insured risk. Things could have been worse, as many of the 320 cattle on the unit would have drowned if local contractor Phil Handley had not provided tractors and trailers to remove 150 head as water covered all 121ha (300 acres).

A thousand hay bales in a dutch barn absorbed floodwater and started to heat up at the start of the week, as did 200 big square bales of straw. The base of the silage clamp was also under water.

County council smallholder Barry Thomas could do nothing when floods swamped 100t of silage, 25t of hay and 15t of straw at Cookesbridge, Rossett.

Union leaders know that replacing ruined fodder stocks will be difficult, and impossible at a price farmers can afford. Politicians are being lobbied for help. Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy visited the Dee Valley and promised to back the call at Cabinet level. &#42