Forage Aid farmer urges flood crisis hub

The Lincolnshire grower behind last winter’s Forage Aid has said support for flood-hit farmers might need to be sustained for “18 months to two years”.

Andrew Ward, the 2013 Farmers Weekly Farm Champion of the Year, has also called for government help to find a large-scale storage depot to hold feed, bedding and supplies and handle distribution.

In an interview with the NFU he said: “We need to get lots of feed and haulage ready to go when it’s needed most. They’re OK at the moment because the response has been huge.

“But we need things lined up and ready for months to come, to be able to say ‘that load needs to go there’. We’ve got to get something like an aircraft hanger.

“We can’t just carry on using Sedgemoor Livestock Market – it will need to get back to business,” he said.

See also: Flood-hit farmers – how you can help

Meanwhile, farmers are being warned to prepare for more flooding this weekend as heavy rain shows no signs of easing.

With 17 severe flood warnings and a further 140 flood warnings still in place, forecasters were warning more heavy rain and strong winds are on the way.

Dave Britton, forecaster at the Met Office, said Friday (14 February) marked the end of the intense storms.

However, he added that strong winds were expected to continue over the weekend and it would be “quite breezy and blustery” on Saturday (15 February).

Looking ahead to next week more rain is predicted for Monday (17 February), with spells of drier weather interspersed throughout the week.

“Bands of rain will be pushing through on Monday into Tuesday and on Thursday, but not the intensity of the downpours we have seen over the couple of days and not as windy,” said Mr Britton.

Despite the improving picture he warned there would still be a high risk of flooding. “Because farmland is so saturated any further rainfall will cause issues for farmers going forward. Large areas of the Somerset Levels will stand the water for quite some time yet.”

He added: “Flooding is likely to persist for quite a while because the ground is so wet and susceptible. Any amount of rain is likely to lead to problems.”

For this reason he said it was critical for farmers to keep an eye on severe weather and flood warnings.

“Flooding is likely to persist for quite a while because the ground is so wet and susceptible. Any amount of rain is likely to lead to problems.”
Dave Britton, Met Office forecaster

Kent grower Stephen Furnival has 61ha (100 acres) waterlogged at Honeychild Manor Farm, St Mary in the Marsh.

He said on Friday (14 February): “We have had a really wet day today. We need a chance for this water to drain away.

“Hopefully, the less frequent the storms are, the more chance the water will have to get away.”

According to the Environment Agency, “significant flooding” is expected in areas surrounding the Thames, the Severn and on the Somerset Levels.

And further rain, gale force winds and high sea levels will bring a high risk of coastal flooding to parts of the Dorset, Cornwall and East Sussex coasts.

So far 2.9m tonnes of water have been pumped daily from the Somerset Levels and 2,500sq km of farmland have been protected.

For help, or to make a donation, visit the Farming Help website

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