Defra is currently consulting on proposals for a future agricultural policy once we leave the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The consultation will help drive the Government’s decisions on where public money, in the form of payments to farmers and land managers, will be spent in the future. It will also help to establish how the rules and standards for land management should be set and enforced.
Clearly productive agriculture, growing good quality, safe, and traceable food must be at the forefront of the Government’s new policy, but it should also help farmers enhance our environment for generations to come.
ADA has been looking closely at the consultation to ensure that flood risk management is recognised and valued as a public good underpinning the Government’s approach to future agricultural policy. ADA will be commenting in detail on the changes proposed in the Government’s consultation paper and we have prepared some key points below.
Key points for the Government’s future agricultural policy
We would welcome feedback from our members on these key points so we can best reflect your views in our consultation response. Please feel free to use any of these points in your own response. Please click each point to expand.
1. Flood risk management must be recognised and valued as a public good underpinning the Government’s approach to future agricultural policy.
- The new ‘environmental land management system’ (ELMS) proposed by the government must pay much greater attention to flood risk and water level management than within current arrangements to keep pace with our changing climate.
- Should support and fund collaboration between farmers within catchments to secure flood risk management benefits.
- Should preserve and enhance existing measures to store and retain water both within field and in field margins (e.g. bunds and buffer zones), and thus minimise soil erosion and runoff.
- Must recognise variability in hydrology within, and across, catchments. E.g. the best measures for upland England may not be the most appropriate for the East Anglian Fens.
2. Incentivise better water resource planning, use, storage, and coordination by, and between, farmers for abstraction and irrigation.
- Should encourage rainwater capture, storage and sustainable drainage systems on farm and around farm buildings.
3. Facilitate closer working between farmers, growers, landowners and risk management authorities*.
- Should not inhibit effective flood and water level management delivery by risk management authorities and the new system should retain suitable exemptions and derogations to facilitate the work of risk management authorities.
- Should better integrate farm inspections with the delivery of effective flood risk management.
4. Ensure integration with reforms to the planning system
- Specifically in regards to the management of surface water from development, and the construction of farm reservoirs.
5. Create more ‘room for the river’ by explore innovative funding solutions that incentivise farmers to incorporate productive agriculture within more strategic flood management measures.
- This could help to unlock large-scale measures to better integrate modern farming, growing food within an active floodplain or more dynamic coastline.
- This could include creating washland flood storage schemes, or setting-back river levees or coastal embankments, as used in the Netherlands’ ‘Room for the River’ programme.
- At one location, the river Bergsche Maas at the Overdiepse Polder has been widened as part of this programme. In a bid to keep farming the land, the local water board built platforms called ‘terps’ of about 2 hectares. The farmers who wished to continue to farm in the Polder could then install farmhouses and farm buildings for livestock and storage on this elevated ground. The Polder can now flood more regularly but the farmers are given notice before the flood happens, which gives them chance to move any animals at risk onto the terps. The total cost of project was about five million euros and was all funded by the government.
6. Provide effective flexibility and support for farmers during and following emergency flood events.
- Agriculture is often at the mercy of extreme and changeable weather.
- In the winter of 2013 and 2014 some 45,000ha of agricultural land were flooded, including some coastal areas, at a cost of around £19 million to the sector. And in the summer of 2007, 42,000ha of agricultural land were flooded at a cost of some £50 million to the sector.
The future for food, farming and the environment consultation (Defra)
Closes: 8 May 2018
* Risk management authorities are those public authorities identified within the Flood & Water Management Act 2010 to reduce the risk of flooding. They are: the Environment Agency (England) or Natural Resources Wales (Wales), lead local flood authorities, district councils for areas for which there is no unitary authority, internal drainage boards, water companies, and highway authorities.