Crops wrecked as ditches overflow

Darlington and Stockton Times: DEVASTATION: flooding in West Lancashire DEVASTATION: flooding in West Lancashire

THOUSANDS of acres of potatoes, vegetables and salads have been written off after drainage ditches overflowed and flooded productive land.

The devastation in west Lancashire could cost some growers more than £200,000.

The NFU has described the situation as a “real emergency” and is looking for ways to help the growers absorb their losses while planning for a coming year which looks set to deliver increased costs and less income.

With costs such as fuel and fertiliser rising, economists predict it could cost growers up to 25 per cent more to grow the same crops in 2013.

And with banks preferring to lend on business turnover rather than assets, many of the growers are worried about the future of their businesses.

Aarun Naik, NFU NorthWest policy adviser, said: “In order to alleviate the stress on our growers, the NFU is proposing to take the county’s key agricultural bank managers onto farms to see the damage and hear from the growers.

“We also need to formally talk to some of the large landlords in the area as there is a real risk that some growers are not going to be able to pay rent.”

Many of the growers blame the Environment Agency (EA) for the flooding, claiming that ditches have not been maintained properly and drainage pumps left to fossilise.

Rosie Cooper,MP forWest Lancashire, saw the problems for herself at a potato farm near Scarisbrick.

She said it was criminal to see so much food to go to waste. “For this reason I have called together all the key agencies responsible for managing flooding.What we need is a proper and deliverable plan to stop this extent of damage happening again.”

The NFU met Steve Moore, EA director for the North-West, at Simon Edwards’ Gore House Farm, located in one of the areas worst affected by flooding – the Alt and Crossens catchment.

Mr Edwards, who farms 900 acres, including 75 acres of potatoes, said: “I was really encouraged that the attitude of the Environment Agency has changed.

“We talked about the longterm policies, with the emphasis being on co-operation between Environment Agency employees and farmers.

“What I, and I’m sure many local farmers, would at least like to see is a future where the Environment Agency looks after the main river flows and the on-going maintenance of the pumping stations, while allowing farmers to look after their own ditches.”

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