Farmers are set to meet government officials this week to discuss the “crippling impact” of the recent heatwave on farms.
Depleted crops, poor water supply and “tinderbox conditions” will be on the agenda as leaders and policy experts from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) meet officials from the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and other farming organisations on Wednesday.
Livestock and dairy farmers have been forced to use winter fodder supplies after weeks of hot, dry weather reduced the growth of grass and forage for animals, the union reported.
Meanwhile, the conditions have prevented water supply for arable farmers’ irrigation systems, and depleted yields for cereals and rain-fed crops, it said.
NFU president Minnette Batters, who will chair the meeting, called on the government to support the industry. She said that even the weekend’s thunderstorms “won’t mitigate the many issues farmers are experiencing”, with long range forecasts saying the heatwave will continue.
The “emergency meeting” would aim to find solutions to “alleviate the pressures that are building on many farmers and growers,” she said.
“This unprecedented spell of weather really should be a wake-up call for us all. It’s a timely reminder that we shouldn’t take food production for granted. Farming is one of the most affected industries when it comes to managing volatility,” she added.
A Defra spokesperson said: “Defra is working directly with the NFU and organisations across the industry to support farmers through the dry weather.
“We have taken action to help farmers access additional fodder and provided flexibility for Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship agreement holders who are experiencing difficulties.
“We will continue working with all parties so farmers have the support they need through this difficult period.”
The summit comes on the same day that environment secretary Michael Gove will rebuke chief executives of water companies for failing to meet leakage targets.
Gove has demanded they meet him at Defra on Wednesday to “discuss how they are going to address this serious issue and improve their performance” after the GMB union reported United Utilities wasted 430m litres of water every day.
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