Deep concerns raised over flood recovery fund access

Farmers may find it too difficult to access government funding to help them recover from this winter’s floods, a leading agricultural peer has warned.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Curry of Kirkharle stressed the seriousness of the situation for farmers affected by flooding across northern England.

The government’s Farming Recovery Fund aims to help farmers recover from recent storms in Cumbria, Durham, Lancashire Northumberland and Yorkshire.

Farmers suffering from uninsurable losses can apply grants of up to £20,000 via the Rural Payments Agency to help restore soils, rebuild tracks and repair flood channels.

Lord Curry said it was “very welcome” that the government had established a fund to help farm businesses recover.

But he added: “My deep concern is how difficult it may prove to be to access these funds.”

See also: Farm floods: Guide to practical and financial support

Application for a similar fund during the Somerset floods two years ago had proved to be too arduous and complex for many farmers to benefit, said Lord Curry.

“For busy farmers trying to clear their land and cope with the stress of the experience, this was far from helpful,” he warned.

A further issue was that farmers could claim the support only after the funds have been spent, said Lord Curry on Thursday (14 January).

“This policy fails to recognise the massive cashflow problems that farmers will experience off the back of this bad winter,” he added.

“The fact that some have still not received their BPS payments is a major concern. Some have had stock losses. Therefore, the cashflow issues are serious.

“I hope that the government will look at changing this policy to consider advancing payments – either 50% or 75% of the payment – to allow farmers to carry out the work and invest as proposed.”

Responding for the government, Lord Gardiner of Kimble said farmers would be able to claim up to £20,000 to restore damaged agricultural land.

He added: “Clearly, we need to ensure that support is engaged in a user-friendly manner.”

Defra said it has taken a number of measures to help flood-hit farmers.

The Farming Recovery Fund initially opened for applications on 18 December. The deadline for applications has since been extended from 18 March to 1 April 2016.

Meanwhile, Natural England has temporarily lifted requirements that normally apply to Environmental Stewardship agreements and protected sites.

Defra says this too means flood-affected farmers can focus on recovery.

Farmers who want to apply for the Farming Recovery Fund can find guidance at

They can also contact the Rural Services helpline on 03000 200 301.