NFU South East is running a project to better understand the management of rural flooding, the cost to farmers, and how the risk to farmland might be mitigated.
The Upper Thames catchment upstream of Sutton Courtney in Oxfordshire will be used as the area to investigate past and predicted rural flooding.
Meanwhile, landowners within smaller sub-catchments, such as the River Ray, will help to investigate practical options for collaborating on flood risk management decisions.
The study aims to identify the scale of costs of flooding on farming and estimate its likely effect on food security in future years.
NFU staff are working closely with farmers and land managers in the River Ray catchment to ask them to pinpoint problem spots/management solutions with a view to investigating new approaches to river maintenance.
The study has been launched in response to NFU member queries such as: will more extensive river maintenance improve the drainage on our farm? Are there cost-effective solutions to deal with flooding and land drainage on our farm? And, is there a relationship between increasing urbanisation, changing frequencies of management and changing rainfall patterns?
The NFU is seeking detailed feedback via a questionnaire from farmers within the catchment to be followed up by meetings with small groups of affected farmers. The closing date for responses is 31 December 2014.
Tom Keen, who is working on the project for NFU South East, appealed to landowners and land managers to respond.
He said: “Without being guided by your vision, we have little chance of setting a deliverable plan of action, and we are now seeking your views and the views of every land management interest across the entire River Ray catchment.
“We also believe there could some valuable historic knowledge out there. Therefore we’d welcome any background knowledge or documentation of previous management organisations.
“For example, if you are aware of the historic activity of an Internal Drainage Board or similar, please get in touch.”
During the coming months, the NFU will be following up the questionnaire with some targeted interviews and field work to identify local examples of specific maintenance requirements.