Shropshire Star

Shropshire farmers calling for government support as flooding hits hard

Stormy weather battering Shropshire and beyond has left farmers facing some of their 'most difficult periods in decades'.

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Storm Henk is the latest in a seemingly relentless series of severe weather events, wreaking havoc across the West Midlands.

But Edward Tate, of the Isle Estate Farm near Shrewsbury, says farmers are up for the challenge of helping to mitigate flooding and climate change.

However, he says they need support from government to help urgently deliver strategies and solutions to the issues.

Mr Tate said: "From a farming perspective, 2023 has been one of the most difficult years we have had in decades.

"In May and June, we had a drought and then practically continuous rain from July onwards.

"Not only has it played havoc with yields, which are down, but many farmers across the country have not even planted their winter crops."

Areas around The Isle Estate

"It impacts across all sectors and these issues have been coupled with problems in the supply chain, inflation and conflict in Europe and the Middle East. In Shropshire, everyone knows the biggest challenges we face are climate change, biodiversity loss, food and water security.

"Farmers here are up for the challenge of providing food and ensuring environmental security, meaning water and wildlife can be managed in a sustainable way. But we need commitment from our government and we need continuity, with no change. To back that up, there's a need for investment."

Mr Tate, a Shrewsbury NFU member, said that, given support, farmers can not only produce food but, working with natural processes, help prevent the kind of flood hazard seen across Shropshire and the country.

Edward Tate

"We are all in this together, whether a householder, business or farmer," he said. "But given the right support, farmers can do a lot to help mitigate the effects of climate change."

Bridgnorth farmer Phil Preece and his family operate a 280-hectare all-arable business. Among the crops in the ground now are oil seed rape, wheat and winter oats, with spring barley to plant.

He says the weather has brought challenges but the business has, so far, coped with the impact.

He said: "We have battled through it as best we can but it has been a slog and we have just tried to take opportunities when they are there.

"We are fortunate here that none of the land is under water because we are not by a river.

"We are trying to harvest the sugar beet, which is a bit tedious. We have persevered and got a lot of the crops in the ground that we wanted to but, until we get a drier spell, we don't know what damage has been done until the crops start growing in the spring.

"At the moment, we don't know what spring we are going to get.

"We could have a kind one, where we get rain at the right time and the crops grow quickly and disease-free, and that can save some money - but time will tell on that one."

He added: "Overall we are sitting in the right place but the further west you go and into Wales, it gets bad and those near river ground will have to replant big areas.

"Hopefully the turn of a new year will bring some drier weather. In six weeks time, we might be saying 'we could do with a bit of rain now' – that's the unpredictability of our weather climate.

"We can get battered by the volume of rain and crops have got to grow through it or impacted by droughts. That's the challenge, it puts a dynamic on trying to outplay the conditions."

The NFU said it was currently monitoring the weather situation but reiterated the call for government support for farmers.

Tom Bradshaw, NFU Vice President

NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said: “As we start 2024, many areas are continuing to experience flooding with thousands of acres of productive farmland still under water and many crops not going to survive the winter with the huge financial stress and misery that brings.

“With more than 100 flood warnings in place and more heavy rain forecast, the NFU will be monitoring the situation and supporting our members via our network of contacts in the Environment Agency and local authorities.

“This constant wet weather again highlights the need for government to recognise the strategic importance of domestic food production and urgently deliver solutions to mitigate the impact of flooding of farmland to ensure our farmers and growers can continue producing food for the nation.”