The NFU wants growers with trickle or drip irrigation systems to apply for abstraction licences 12 months ahead of a deadline that precedes new regulations.
The legislation will close a loophole that has allowed growers to abstract water without a licence because they use trickle irrigators rather than spray booms or guns.
NFU national water resources specialist Paul Hammett explained that even though the deadline for applications was not until 31 December next year, growers in England and Wales should apply now.
“This is a massive change and will affect anyone using a trickle system,” Mr Hammett said.
“It is particularly onerous for the horticulture industry, but could also affect potato producers or other field-scale vegetable units,” he said.
Because of the wide scope, the union fears hundreds of growers will be caught up and the application process could be inundated as the deadline approaches.
The process involves lengthy record checking and calculations and will take time to complete, Mr Hammett added.
“We are concerned that if people delay applying, it will only add to a logjam at the end of next year and eligible growers could miss out,” he said.
The government has stipulated that most growers who can demonstrate historical use of trickle systems will automatically qualify for an abstraction licence. But they must still apply before the deadline.
Mr Hammett said this was important because applications submitted after the deadline would not be automatically eligible for a licence even if they could still prove their business had depended on it in the past.
Instead they will have to fight for a licence among any new applicants within their region and hope there is spare capacity.
“That is why the NFU has been raising awareness and urging growers to take action during this quieter phase of the year,” Mr Hammett said.
For more information
See the Government website for how to apply for abstraction licences