September 12, 2008
Flood Law Changed for Farms
By Tom Scotney
Farmers in the West Midlands had to go to the Government for help recovering from the floods that hit the region, it has emerged.The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had to abandon regulations on working in wet fields so farmers could go out to harvest wheat crops devastated by the heavy rainfall.
Wheat and potato crops were damaged by the rain - more than double the amount that normally falls at that time of year, according to the Met Office.
And it also meant many farmers could not get into fields to start bringing in their crops.
Normally, Defra rules mean farmers can be fined if they use heavy machinery in recently flooded fields.
But after calls from stricken farmers it agreed to suspend the rules for three weeks so farmers could get back on their feet.
Warwickshire farmer William Hemus said he was pleased that Defra had agreed to lift the restrictions.
Mr Hemus, who farms at Nuneaton, said: "It is great to hear that Defra is using some common sense and enabling growers to get in and salvage their crops.
"I think it is definitely the right decision and will help to alleviate some of the pressure on farmers as the last thing we need is to worry about rules and regulations when we are trying to get the harvest in."
And Shropshire farmer Arthur Hill, of Much Wenlock, echoed his comments and said it would be a great help to farmers in the area.
He added: "At last Defra has realised the seriousness of the nature of trying to harvest crops in very difficult conditions and we welcome this decision. The National Farmers' Union said many of its members in the West Midlands would be facing huge bills because of the heavy rain.
The Midlands had 102 mm of rainfall in August alone - 157 per cent above the monthly annual average.
A spokesman for the NFU in the West Midlands said: "It's fair to say the wheat crop is the main thing that's been affected.
"People are talking about millions of pounds worth of damage.
"Like many industries that rely on good weather in the summer, farmers are suffering because of record rainfalls and fields across the West Midlands have been flooded.
"Despite this it is not all doom and gloom and the harvest is stuttering forward, although getting in the last of the wheat crop and potatoes will be two of the biggest worries for our members. "For wheat in particular the harvest has been both difficult and expensive in terms of gathering and drying wet, sodden crops although the barley alongside rape seed and oats are mainly in now and high yields have been reported.
"A poor harvest does not just have an impact on grain but also on there being a lack of fodder for animal feed and it can have a knockon effect in terms of planting for next year's crop.
He added rumours of food price rises had been overstated, and if they did happen the NFU would like to see larger returns for farmers at the farm gate to keep the industry profitable.
Yesterday, Mark Price, the managing director of Waitrose, said the good summer vegetable harvest and the global grain market meant food prices would actually be dropping.
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