Resilience measures are urgently needed to combat the effect of extreme weather on food and farming, according to the NFU and NFU Cymru.
The summer’s drought highlighted the vulnerability of farming and the nation’s food security, the unions said on Wednesday (5 December).
The government, its agencies and the farming sector need to prioritise planning for water scarcity and protecting farmers in order to create a more drought-resilient sector and food system, they added.
Recommendations include developing long-term collaborative plans for managing water scarcity, promoting best practice in the management of resources, strategic planning of straw supply and demand across the industry and promoting contingency planning among farmers.
The unions want to see farmers protected with new policy measures for managing the effects of weather and market-related volatility, flexibility for water abstraction rules, prompt payments and rapid derogations to be made.
Finally, they ask incentives are introduced through the tax system to enable investment in farm reservoirs, an investment is made in improved monitoring and measuring of abstraction, and investment in the UK’s weather forecasting capability is continued.
NFU president Minette Batters said: “The summer’s heatwave and the impacts of the agricultural drought were hugely challenging and should be a wake-up call for us all. The reality is that the full effects won’t really be known until next year.
“The lessons we have learned clearly identify what policies need to be in place to manage market failure and volatility. This must be treated seriously alongside productivity and delivering for the environment in order to provide a supply of home-grown food and to deliver food security for the nation.”