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    Pilot studies to help farmers with flood prevention

    NewsTuesday 15 October 2013
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    This month will see a series of Environment Agency pilot studies begin, which could make it much easier for farmers to maintain waterways. 
     
    However, the NFU has warned that the agency’s own river maintenance budget could cause a number of real issues going forward. 
     
    The pilot studies will be carried out in seven catchment areas across England and they will allow farmers and landowners to cut back vegetation or remove silt from watercourses in order to reduce the risk of flooding. This will be made possible through the reduction of red tape. 
     
    As well as the above, the agency will also provide a clearer picture of what watercourse maintenance is being conducted by the Environment Agency. 
     
    The development has been welcomed by the NFU, however, they also voiced their concern that the existing water maintenance budget is being cut. The union stated that this could cause implications for flood prevention and river conditions in the coming years. 
     
    Meurig Raymond, the Deputy President of the NFU, said: “I’m pleased that the Environment Agency and Defra are seeking to reduce red tape and make it easier for farmers to maintain watercourses themselves.
     
    “Members have found the existing consenting process difficult, unclear and frustrating. When the EA attended the NFU council meeting in January this year, members called for a basic set of rules to allow farmers to undertake such works without compromising the environment.
     
    “These pilots offer an opportunity to learn how this will work in practice and what further guidance and support farmers need in helping to avoid a repeat of the flooding we saw in 2012.
     
    “That said, I’m concerned that more priority isn’t being placed on the Environment Agency’s own asset maintenance work given last year’s flooding.
     
    “Another 5% is being trimmed from the budget in 2014-15, on top of cuts over the previous three years. On the Somerset Levels and Moors during 2012 we saw most starkly the impact of neglecting to maintain conveyance and capacity.
     
    “The government’s insistence on increasing investment in larger capital schemes while cutting the amount spent on asset maintenance will invariably lead to less resilient river systems and an increasing reliance on capital schemes that protect urban areas in isolation.
     
    “Farmers are all too aware of the long term implications this will bring for agriculture and the food security of this country. While farmers can play their part, there’s only so much that they can achieve on their own without government investment.”

    Picture: Ruthanne Reid
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