Farmers Deny Any Blame for Flooding; Surface Tension: MPs Claim Winter Wheat Planting Worsens Water Run-Off

The Birmingham Post (England), December 21, 2000 | Go to article overview

Farmers Deny Any Blame for Flooding; Surface Tension: MPs Claim Winter Wheat Planting Worsens Water Run-Off


Byline: Sarah Probert Environment Reporter

Midland farmers yesterday disputed claims by MPs that they were partly to blame for this autumn's floods in the region.

An MPs' report said the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food might have been partly to blame for the flooding because it failed for 15 years to impose on farmers planning rules designed to prevent the floods.

A cross-party Commons Environment Select Committee issued a 'grave condemnation' of the Ministry, which has now agreed to bring forward regulations on the issue in the New Year.

The committee said farmers had contributed towards Britain's flooding problem by planting more winter wheat, installing field drainage, and ploughing up meadows - sometimes supported by MAFF grants.

But Midland farmers disputed the claims.

Arthur Hill, a Shropshire arable and livestock farmer and regional board chairman for the West Midlands National Farmers Union (NFU), said: 'I dispute that farmers are responsible for it.

'We haven't contributed to the serious rainfall that has occurred this autumn. In our area, we have had 26 inches of rainfall since September 1 and the average annual rainfall is 31 inches.

'The cropping of winter cereals stop run-off more than if we left fields empty.'

Ben Gill, president of the NFU, said: 'I think it is quite ridiculous to suggest that farming has made any major contribution.

'The principal amount comes from run-off from concrete and Tarmac and development work.'

While improved drainage of farmland had led to some increase in the speed with which rainwater ran off the land and into rivers, he said, most of this work was completed more than 20 years ago and could not be blamed for the recent upsurge in problems. …

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