Urgent action is needed to safeguard water and agricultural land for food production, warns an NFU report which says better investment will also help mitigate the impact of climate change.
The report says significant investment in water infrastructure is crucial to protect existing farmland and food production during extreme weather events, increase our food security, and help deliver the NFU’s ambition for farming to be net zero by 2040.
Some 57% of farmers say they have experienced extreme weather conditions, such as flooding or drought, in the past 10 years. This shows why there is a pressing need to further equip farmers with tools to manage extreme weather events.
NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “As the entire nation continues to deal with more volatile weather, now is the time to look at the bigger picture, as these extremes are impacting British farming’s ability to produce food.”
The report argues that cooperation and collaboration between farmers, government and water companies is vital to managing flooding and drought risk, to protect productive farmland and ensure farmers are getting their fair share of water.
Calling for an ambitious upgrade of ageing flood defences, drainage and waterways, Mr Roberts said: “We should embrace Britain’s great engineering and science skills to look at ways of how we can collect and store water when some parts have too little and others too much.”
He added: “This could enable farmers to grow more fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, or other crops here in Britain, in addition to farming smarter to bring down our emissions and help achieve our net zero ambition by 2040.”
Some farmers were already adapting their businesses to be more resilient to extreme weather. They were developing on-farm rainwater harvesting systems and using precision irrigation and building more on-farm reservoirs.
But the sector could do much more with government support. “A serious commitment by government, water companies and from farmers to upgrade and invest in our water infrastructure will have benefits for everyone.”