“Heart breaking” damage to UK farms in the wake of storms
8th November 2023
Farmland in parts of the country remains submerged in floodwater following recent storms Babet and Ciaran – putting farmers under financial and emotional strain and prompting calls for government action.
The NFU has shared video footage of over 250 acres of crops underwater at David Armstrong’s farm in Lincolnshire – including cover crops, potatoes, linseed and freshly drilled winter wheat.
The footage is described as “absolutely dreadful” and “heartbreaking”.
Another Lincolnshire grower, Henry Moreton, recently told BBC News he has 155 acres of land underwater at his 500-acre farm near Woodhall Spa. He estimates he has lost £55-65,000 worth of oilseed rape, winter wheat and barley due to flooding caused by Storm Babet.
Commenting on the impact on his mental health, he said: “I’m a very glass-half-full chap all the time. I’m always optimistic, my wife says, but when I went up our farm road towards the river on Saturday morning I got as far as the pond and I just stopped and cried because I didn’t know what to do. What do you do?
“I’ve never had the wind taken out of my sails like it.
“My wife was that worried she hid the shotgun cabinet keys. She only told me that yesterday. She said she had never seen me look like that.”
Govt must do more
David Exwood, an arable, beef and sheep farmer in Sussex, and vice president of the NFU, said the government needs to do more to help farmers, both in terms of policy and providing mental health support.
A report by the Efra Committee earlier this year urged the government to provide dedicated emergency funding to allow rural communities to quickly access more mental health resources during and especially after crisis events.
However, the government has said it will not allocate specific funding and current levels of support are sufficient.
Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Exwood said farmers have got millions of pounds of crop in the ground in some cases, or may not have even been able to sow their main crop of the year – and they are under huge financial pressure.
“There’s nothing they can do about it; they can’t stop the rain and that really impacts your mental health. […]
“These are small businesses – they don’t have an HR department, they can’t go to their manager and ask for a day off, they have to just deal with it. And we live where we work so you feel there’s no escape from the pressure you’re under.”
He added: “I spoke to a farmer yesterday and he’s got millions of pounds worth of potatoes in the fields and he can’t lift them. He may never lift them now, he may have to write those crops off.”
The income on Mr Exwood’s own farm is 25% less this year than last year. He urged the government to recognise the unique pressures farmers face and to value food production.
NFU is lobbying all political parties to outline their plans to protect farming businesses from flooding. Farmers are being urged to sign an open letter: https://www.nfuonline.com/updates-and-information/flooding-sign-our-open-letter-calling-for-political-action/