The widespread flooding in England over the past two months has cost the country’s leading rural insurance company, the NFU Mutual, somewhere between £70 and £80 million with more than 8,000 claims having been made to date
More than £500,000 has already been paid out in emergency aid to 99 clients. The Mutual described the flooding as the most prolonged weather event it had experienced in its 100-year plus existence.
The insurance company’s charitable trust has also donated £50,000 to local charities involved in helping farmers and rural communities struggling as a result of the devastating floods on the Somerset Levels.
“The floods on the Somerset Levels are causing massive damage to homes, farms and businesses, with thousands of acres under water for over six weeks,” said Richard Percy, chairman of the trust.
“This means there will be severe difficulties on the Levels long after the waters have receded – possibly for years to come. Farmers are facing a massive task to restore flooded land to production, and communities across the whole flooded area are going to need long-term support.”
Mutual chief executive Lindsay Sinclair described how the company had had to use boats to visit flooded-out policyholders to inspect the damage to homes and businesses. “We’ve made emergency payments and arranged alternative accommodation for families and helped evacuate livestock.
“Our local branch in Bridgwater has also been at the centre of the sustained efforts being made to rehouse livestock and distribute supplies of fodder, which have been donated by farmers across the UK.”
Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union of Scotland has written to both the Scottish Government and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency calling for a high level meeting to discuss watercourse management following significant flooding in parts of the country.
While Scotland has not suffered flooding to anything like the same extent as parts of England and Wales, the union claimed that there were many individual farmers who had experienced significant damage and losses.
The union added that it had been receiving calls from members hit by flooding since late December and the number affected by the high rainfall was increasing.
The issue was raised publically at the union annual meeting last week, with one member asking headquarters to try and get further relaxations around watercourse management and dredging as the current rules were confusing, expensive and restrictive.
Following the very wet autumn in 2012, some changes were made to the regulations but the union now wishes the authorities to revisit the issue in the wake of the problems south of the Border.
Union president Nigel Miller said there was a groundswell of opinion that regulation of management of watercourses was too confusing, expensive and restrictive.
“Further change is essential if Scottish agriculture is to remain productive and viable under a changing climate. Due to years of restrictive, expensive and confusing regulation, a large number of farmers have heavily silted or gravelled watercourses, which are negatively impacting on field drainage and watercourse carrying capacity.
“This reduces the resilience and productivity of Scottish farming. It also means that I feel the time has come for a review of this issue here in Scotland.”