The farming industry leaders, Government officials and Secretary of State Michael Gove came together this morning for the National Farmers’ Union’s emergency agricultural drought summit.

Those around the table discussed solutions to help deal with the volatility of the dry summer which followed a longer than usual winter and heard of the impact the drought is having on British food production.

The Secretary of State for Food and the Environment also heard first-hand from NFU farmer leaders of the serious impacts on each of the farming sectors.

Topics discussed included challenges with irrigation, water shortage, heat stress on livestock, crop loss and a shortage of forage for livestock.

The meeting also heard from farming charities, the Farming Community Network (FCN) and Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), that the relentless pressure on farmers dealing with the drought-related issues and significant extra costs is leading to concerns about their mental and physical well-being.

The summit called for:

  • Immediate emergency or short-term flexibility around abstraction of water for farmers and growers including granting the ability to trade water between farms;
  • Support for the logistics of transporting fodder and straw around the country to areas where there are shortages; and
  • Speeding up of BPS and Countryside Stewardship payments already owed to farm businesses.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “The impacts of the dry and hot weather have been hugely challenging for many farms across the country, with many not seeing such weather in their lifetimes.

Today’s summit was a wake-up call to Government and policymakers about the importance of British food production and the critical need to manage the volatility that comes with it.

“We were pleased to hear after the meeting, the Secretary of State said he would do ‘whatever it takes’ in order to make sure farmers can continue to run successful businesses and that food supplies can continue to be healthy.

“As we move towards a new domestic agricultural policy it’s vital that market failure and volatility are treated seriously alongside productivity and delivering for the environment in order that the nation continues to have access to British food which is high quality and produced to world-leading standards.”