The River Hull Strategy and long term issues with maintenance and management of the whole catchment were top of the agenda when 20 farmers from Driffield and the NFU met with local MP Sir Greg Knight and MEP Timothy Kirkhope.
Calling for more urgent progress to be made in implementing the Strategy, farmers once again raised the issue of the sunken barge vessels that remain in the River Hull and continue to restrict the water flow and capacity of the watercourse.
In response, Sir Greg Knight said it was important to pursue the River Hull Strategy with vigour and that he would be doing so with parliamentary colleagues. Given the recent Boxing Day floods, flooding was now high on the agenda of Government, he added, and he was firmly of the view that farmers, as well as home owners, should be considered when flood defences were being planned.
“Having met with local farmers, I understand that whilst the recent floods didn’t directly affect East Yorkshire they highlighted the need for East Riding of Yorkshire Council, the Environment Agency and other stakeholders to progress with the outcomes of the River Hull Strategy,” he said.
“I think there is a strong case now to push the government for a monetary commitment to more river maintenance.”
Other issues raised at the meeting included the delay in Basic Payment Scheme payments and the crippling effect this is having on the agricultural industry and wider rural economy. Farmers also raised frustrations at the complexity of Natural England’s new Countryside Stewardship Scheme. This complexity, they argued makes the scheme very inaccessible and as a result, there has been incredibly low uptake nationally.
Timothy Kirkhope MEP used the opportunity to talk about the new European Commission initiative – the Agricultural Markets Task Force – designed to support farmers in their dealings with the food supply chain.
“This is a real opportunity for our farmers to get better contractual terms as suppliers of food and food products and to ensure that there are also opportunities for collective farmers’ action through the NFU if necessary,” he said. “For too long our farmers have had difficulty negotiating fair treatment with retailers and wholesalers and this new Task Force under Commissioner Hogan will explore ways to help them.”
He promised to report back on the situation as it develops.
After the meeting, NFU Group Secretary Andrew Scott said: “We had a great turnout of local members and this gave them the chance to raise flooding and other issues directly with their MP and MEP,” he said.
“Such meetings are always useful and we are lucky to have the opportunity to discuss key farming issues on a regular basis with both our elected representatives