UK Environment Secretary promises support for farmers impacted by the drought

The environment secretary, Michael Gove, has promised support for farmers hit by the impact of the dry weather.

Following a drought summit with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), he said the government would do “whatever it takes” to maintain food supplies.

The NFU had requested relief from the “crippling impact” of the heatwave, including the relaxation of rules over accessing additional water supplies.

Mr Gove promised to remove bureaucracy where it was hindering farmers.

“We will make sure farmers have what they need in order to provide us with high-quality food and ensure their businesses survive,” he said.

The record summer heatwave has put huge pressure on farmers.

Meat and milk producers, salad, fruit and vegetable growers, have said harvests and yields are being severely affected by some of the driest months since 1961.

Heavy rain in recent days has given farmers some relief, but the NFU was still “seeking urgent action” to help farmers.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “Today’s summit was a wake-up call to government and policy makers about the importance of British food production and the critical need to manage the volatility that comes with it.

She welcomed Mr Gove’s pledge to support the sector.

At the meeting she had sought more flexibility for farmers who want to take water from rivers, or have increased access to the public supply water when there is spare capacity in the system.

The Environment Agency, the government body which oversees water use, said farmers would be allowed some short-term flexibility within their water abstraction licences.

“We must also balance farmers’ needs with those of wildlife and other water users so we will only allow these arrangements where we are satisfied there won’t be any adverse effects on the environment,” said Paul Hickey, the EA’s head of water resources.

 

Source: BBC News

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