This Week in Farming: Water woes, flood funding and dairy difficulties

Welcome to This Week in Farming, your weekly catch-up of the best content from the Farmers Weekly website over the past seven days.

But before we get going, what’s your favourite tractor?

In celebration of Farmers Weekly’s 90th birthday, we’re on a quest to find the best tractor built in each of the 10 decades the magazine has been in print. You can vote to crown your champ here.

Now, back to business.

Water woes

With water quality high on the political agenda, it’s perhaps not surprising that it’s dominating the farming news cycle too.

Our first water-related story this week, which was lead in the magazine, is about how changes to the amount of muck and slurry farmers can spread in the autumn could be on the way.

The move comes as a result of a court case brought by green lobby group River Action against the Environment Agency.

It’s a complicated tale, but news editor Phil Clarke has done a great job of unpicking the detail.

Separate work to monitor water quality in England is being undertaken by the Environmental Farmers Group (EFG), a co-operative setup to help farmers generate and trade their natural capital.

The EFG has formed a new partnership with Rothamsted Research, to demonstrate any net gains.

Meanwhile, in Wales, NFU Cymru has formed a group dedicated to revising the Welsh government’s controversial water regulations, ahead of the government’s own review.

The union has described the current rules as “not fit for purpose” and warned they are heightening farmer stress and anxiety levels.

Flood funding

More water-related news this week came from Defra, with ministers promising to vastly expand the Farming Recovery Fund so that up to 10,000 English farmers can access cash to help them recover from heavy winter rains and flooding.

£50m will be made available to spend on recultivation, soil remediation and/or the removal of debris and pollution.

But a separate pot of flood funding, promised by the prime minister at the NFU conference, is now under threat.

Internal drainage boards were promised £75m to invest in new infrastructure to help drain floodwater off farmland, but Treasury rules have made it unlikely the money will be spent.

Dairy difficulties

Sad news about Mona Dairy this week, with the cheese business confirming it has been unable to secure enough funding to continue to operate in its current form.

More than 30 Welsh producers who had been supplying the company are set to move to new buyers.

Markets editor Charlie Reeve has set out the full details.

On the Continent, dairy farmers staged a protest in Brussels to demand fair incomes.

They are calling for EU-wide regulation that would prohibit the sale of dairy products at prices below the cost of production, including a ban on selling products below cost at all stages of the purchasing chain.

Who’s up and who’s down?

It’s undoubtedly been a good week for former CLA president Mark Tuffnell, who has been appointed to the Natural England board.

But his appointment has raised eyebrows in some environmental circles, because he has previously been critical of the body’s work.

It’s been a less positive week for NFYFC, with a Farmers Weekly investigation revealing that girls are regularly subjected to sexual assault at young farmers’ events.

You can read my editorial on the matter here.

Listen to the FW podcast

Don’t forget the latest edition of the Farmers Weekly podcast with me and Sandy Kirkpatrick.

Listen here or bring us with you in the cab by downloading it from your usual podcast platform.

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