Farmer accuses govt of ‘broken promises’ on flood response

A Berkshire farmer has accused the government of “broken promises” over pledges to help farmers recover from the winter floods.

Colin Rayner hit out after Defra rejected an application for a £5,000 grant to cover flood damage at Rayner Ashby Farms in Colnbrook, Slough.

See also: Farm flood recovery scheme pays out just £530,000

Mr Rayner, a director of J Rayner and Sons, based in Horton, near Slough, supplied photographs of ruts caused by tractors in the field trying to farm the land, and areas of flood damage where no crops had survived the floods, to support his application.

However, in July, four months after the floods, Defra asked him to supply photographs of flooded fields to offer more evidence that his fields were flooded in order to process his claim.

Mr Rayner said he was unable to supply such pictures and said farmers and landowners were not asked to provide pictures of flooding in the original application notes.

Defra has refused his grant application because he was “unable to demonstrate that the damage that occurred was caused by flooding”.

In a letter to Defra, Mr Rayner said: “We were not asked in the original documentation to provide photos of the flooding.

“When the prime minister announced his flood grant he should have told the farmers to take photos of their fields when they were flooded. Otherwise, they will not get the grant.

“In January/February, I was too busy during the floods rescuing residents from houses and cattle from fields to take photos of my flooded fields. In fact, it was impossible to get to the fields as roads were underwater. We could not leave our village in our car.”

Mr Rayner said the decision had left him more than £3,000 out of pocket after he decided to carry out extensive subsoiling, ditch clearing and road repairs on the flood-affected farm.

He has decided to appeal the government’s decision.

On a more positive note, Mr Rayner said Defra had accepted his applications for flood grants totalling up to £20,000 on four of his other farming enterprises in and around east Berkshire.

But so far, he hasn’t received a single penny.

“We have five farms. We have to do the work, receive the invoices and then send a copy of the invoices, including a copy of the bank statement showing the transaction to Defra.”

Mr Rayner said many other farmers who were victims of the floods were racking up debt as they were still waiting to receive their grant money for work completed to repair flood-ravaged fields.

“I’d like to know how much of the £10m Farming Recovery Fund farmers and landowners claimed – and how much has actually been paid out to date?” he asked.

Farmers Weekly has requested an update from Defra about how much money has been paid out from the fund.

In February, in the immediate aftermath of the floods, prime minister David Cameron declared that “money is no object” in the relief effort to help flooded farmers get their businesses back on track.

But Mr Rayner said he was feeling “disillusioned with the government” over its “empty promises”.

A Defra spokesman said: “We are spending more than ever before on flood prevention and doing all we can to help people overcome the devastating effects of last year’s floods.

“We made £10m available to help farmers get their land back into production after flooding.

“Under EU rules, payments from the Rural Development Programme budget must be paid to farmers in reimbursement for costs they have incurred and photographic proof must be shown of the flooded area.”

Read more stories like this

See more