Opinion: Farmers united in flood adversity

Isabel-DaviesIt makes you proud to be part of the farming community. In an emergency you always hope that friends and colleagues will give their support. And this week UK agriculture is showing it can and will do that – in spades, writes Farmers Weekly content editor Isabel Davies.

After watching devastating TV footage of Somerset farmers who have been forced to evacuate all their stock from their farms because of the flooding, the farming community has sprung into action.

Politicians may be full of warm words and promises of action in the future, but what farmers really need is action now. If you’ve got hungry animals and no feed to give to them, they can’t wait until tomorrow or next week.

If floodwaters have filled your sheds and your stock is standing in water, you can’t just leave them. Farmers get that.

See also: Cameron pledges £10m fund for flooded farmers

With this in mind, the whole of the food and farming supply chain has started to come together to collect up supplies of straw, hay, silage and feed from farms across the country and transport it down to the West Country as quickly as possible.

The initiative builds on the success of last year’s Forage Aid project, which was the brainchild of Lincolnshire grower Andrew Ward, who was voted Farmers Weekly’s Farming Champion of the Year as a result. Andrew is still very much involved in co-ordinating proceedings but this time he has been joined by a new band of volunteers.

Up and down the country, groups are trying to do their bit for their fellow farmers. With feed in short supply elsewhere, people are offering what they can spare – but every bale counts. Other individuals are spending hours on the phone dealing the difficult, but essential, administrative side of the process.

One of the biggest problems is arranging haulage for the loads that are being collected, but this is where some of farming’s biggest buyers and suppliers are stepping in. Companies – both large and small – have stepped up to the plate to transport loads free of charge.

Charities like the Addington Fund are also raising money to help cover haulage fees.

But this is a problem that won’t be solved in a week. The knock-on consequences of the flooding are going to be felt by those affected for months if not years to come.

It is also not just farmers in Somerset who are suffering – producers in Worcestershire, Oxfordshire, East Berkshire and parts of Kent are facing an equally devastating situation.

By uniting, the industry has achieved a huge amount in the past few days. But we need to keep up momentum. Donations of feed and bedding won’t make the waters miraculously recede, but they will relieve some of the practical pressures.

The crisis has also highlighted how farmers support their own communities – in some areas, helping non-farming neighbours even before the Army or emergency services arrived.

Actions speak louder than words. Let’s keep the action going.

Find out how you can help flood-hit farmers and communities

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