Flood funds rolled out to Somerset farms in online auction

Farmers across Somerset are being invited to tender for funds to help them improve their flood control through a range of farm management measures.

The online auction follows a successful trial last year by the Somerset Rivers Authority and other partners, which saw 16 farms in the River Tone and River Parrett catchments share in funds of £30,000 to change the way they farm.

See also: Somerset farmers paid to help reduce flood risk

The scheme is now being rolled out to the whole of Somerset, except for farms in low-lying areas, as the aim is to slow water flows in the higher parts of river catchments.

The activities Somerset farmers will be able to bid for include:

  • Maize management
  • Grassland subsoiling
  • Hedge planting
  • Soil bund creation
  • Leaky dam building

New app to help

A new web app has been developed by the Environment Agency to help with applications.

From this farmers can select which natural flood management activity they want to tender for, and can identify parts of their farms they believe will produce the best results.

Funding of about £30,000 is again being put up by the Somerset Rivers Authority.

The auction will be run online from 26 February to 12 March. Bids will then be checked by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SW, with grants given to the best, most competitively priced ideas.

Southern Rivers Authority chairman John Osman said: “This is still a very new system, but all the signs are that it has many strengths. It cuts out paperwork, saves time and money, draws on farmers’ unrivalled knowledge of their own land, is easy to use – and it gets results.”

A soil bund

A soil bund

Eco-system services

Scheme partners

Environment Agency, Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group South West, Natural England, Somerset Rivers Authority.

Similar systems of tendering for project funding are envisaged in the Agriculture Bill, currently going through parliament, which will set the parameters for post-Brexit farm support in England.

It is expected to place a much greater emphasis on “public money for public goods”, paying farmers for eco-system services.

Results from last year’s trial in the River Tone and River Parrett catchments showed that maize management was the most popular option, followed by hedge planting.

Anthony Gothard of Slough Court Farm, Stoke St Gregory, who won a maize management grant last year, said: “It only took me a few minutes to place my bid online and there wasn’t any paperwork. I’m really pleased with what I’ve been able to achieve with the grant money.”

Since the devastating flooding of the Somerset Levels in 2013-14, hundreds of natural flood management initiatives have been carried out across Somerset, as part of the county’s pioneering Hills to Levels project and overarching 20-year flood action plan.