Britain’s most flooded farmer not eligible for recovery fund

The country’s most famous flooded farmer has been left flabbergasted after being told he’s ineligible to apply for the government’s recovery grant.

Since the end of October last year, 81ha of arable land at Short Ferry Farm, near Lincoln, which is owned and run by young farmer Henry Ward, has been under 2m of water.

Mr Ward estimates he will be left well over £100,000 out of pocket this year, because he won’t have any crops to sell next year.

See also: Farming Recovery Fund now open for targeted payments

The 33-year-old third-generation farmer had hoped to recoup some of the losses by receiving support from Defra’s Farming Recovery Fund, which opened for applications earlier this week.

farmer with flooded land in backtround

© Henry Ward

Farmer left stunned

But on Tuesday 9 April, the farmer was left stunned when he discovered he was not eligible to claim any support.

“I rang the RPA Helpline and gave them my SBI [Single Business Identifier] number and was told that I wasn’t on the list to receive any of this money,” said Mr Ward.

“Later that evening, another lady from the Rural Payments Agency rang me and told me that 24ha of my land was eligible for the fund.

“But half of this land was on another farm seven miles away and it’s a grass field that only had water on it for 24 hours, doing little damage that really doesn’t need paying for.

“If I can get paid for that, why am I not eligible for money at Short Ferry Farm when my home and yard at Short Ferry is completely shut off by floodwater still to this day? It’s a bloody scandal.”

Defra set up the Farming Recovery Fund to help farmers and mitigate uninsurable losses following flooding.

For the moment, the funding is being targeted at very specific parcels of land – namely fields that were flooded between 2 and 12 January during Storm Henk and are located within 150m of the midpoint of certain specified rivers in Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, West Northamptonshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.

Mr Ward’s flooded farm lies adjacent to the Barlings Eau tributary rather than the eligible River Witham, which means he does not qualify for support.

£25,000 maximum claim 

Hundreds of farmers across England whose land is much less badly affected than Mr Ward’s will be able to draw money out of this pot.

“If I’m not eligible for the maximum £25,000, I want to meet the farmer who is, because they must be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean,” added Mr Ward.

Floods minister Robbie Moore rang Mr Ward on Wednesday night (10 April) and told him that Defra is looking into his case to see what they can do.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We have activated the initial phase of the scheme to ensure grants begin to reach farmers as quickly as possible, and are now looking to expand the scheme to further areas and improve the support for those worst affected.”

NFU lobbying

The NFU said it was hearing from numerous farmer-members whose land has suffered catastrophic impacts from recent flooding, who have been told they are not eligible for the fund.

Some have seen 90% of their land saturated or underwater, and huge damage to buildings and equipment.

NFU vice-president Rachel Hallos said: “We are taking this up with Defra urgently. 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.

“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.”

For more on this story, listen to this week’s episode of the Farmers Weekly Podcast, out Friday 12 April.

See more