Farmer survey reveals devastating legacy of winter floods

A survey of farmers in Cumbria has revealed the devastating effect of the winter floods on farm businesses.

The Cumbrian Farm Flood Action Group contacted 1,000 farmers, out of which 144 reported losses amounting to a total of £1.7m.

Defra has estimated that 650 Cumbrian farms suffered damage after Storm Desmond and Storm Eva caused severe flooding in December.

See also: Farm floods – guide to available practical and financial support

Of the 1,000 farmers contacted, 220 completed a detailed survey. The poll revealed that:

  • Thirty-eight farmers reported 701 sheep deaths between them and 16 farmers reported a total of 189 sheep missing
  • 63% of those surveyed lost sections of watercourse bank sides
  • 37% lost walls and 14% lost hedgerows
  • 53% reported river stone/gravel deposit and 22% have had land slips

Dozens of farms in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland also suffered losses as a result of the December floods.

But according to Defra, so far just 107 farms have applied to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) for supports grants worth £1.1m.

Farmers suffering from uninsurable losses can apply for Farming Recovery Fund grants via the RPA to help restore farmland, rebuild tracks and repair drains and reinstate boundaries.

Farm minister George Eustice urged eligible businesses to apply for funds of up to £20,000 as soon as possible before the 1 April 2016 deadline.

Mr Eustice said: “These payments are part of a wider £200m package of government support set up to help communities affected by the devastating floods in northern England.

See also: Video – Cumbrian farmer counts cost of devastation

“The grants could make a real difference to farm businesses trying to get back on their feet. I want every eligible flood-affected farmer to be able to access this vital money as soon as possible to help them get back to normal.”

The fund covers a range of restoration and repair works, including:

  • Restoration of productive stock-proof grassland, arable and horticultural land
  • Restoration of field access or track ways, fencing or gates or water troughs
  • Rebuilding of drainage on flood-damaged holdings
  • Damage to farm machinery and farm buildings that cannot be insured.

Farmers wanting support to apply should call the Rural Services helpline on 03000 200 301.

Once all checks are completed, the RPA can approve an application and farmers can claim. Payments against valid claims will be paid directly into bank accounts within five working days.