UK storms: Aid effort under way for deluged farmers

By Andrew Glover
BBC News

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionFarmers including James Winslade have had to move cattle from their land

Farmers have been among those worst hit by the effects of devastating flooding in Somerset. On Tuesday David Cameron announced a £10m fund to support their recovery, but other practical offers of help are already arriving by the lorry load.

From all around England the aid is starting to trickle in.

The tractors from Yorkshire are bringing silage, hay and straw, while hundreds of tonnes of sugar beet from Cambridgeshire are already being delivered to those most in need.

Farmers from Lincolnshire and Shropshire are also donating what they can to help those whose land has been drenched during the wettest January on record.

The aid is being sent to Sedgemoor livestock market, in Bridgwater, which has become the makeshift distribution centre.

Farmers Weekly chief reporter Johann Tasker said a corner of the market was being used to store the batches of feed and bedding.

"It's all a little bit ad hoc with people trying to do what they can," he said.

"The market is quite quiet at the moment. There's not yet a steady stream of deliveries."

Mr Tasker said farmers whose land had been flooded were "overwhelmed emotionally" and full of gratitude for the support from elsewhere.

"It is a very emotional time," he said. "I was speaking to people yesterday and they admit they have cried over the situation.

"Many farmers were short on feed because they were flooded last year.

"For a farmer to admit he can't feed his livestock is like a suburban family admitting that they can't feed their children."

'All in it together'

Farmers' co-operative Camgrain launched its own appeal for crops to be sent to Somerset on Tuesday and vice chairman Dave White said he was "immensely pleased" with the early response.

"We only put the appeal out late yesterday afternoon and we've already got enough offers to make a lorry load up," the Cambridgeshire farmer said.

"We've also got members who have surplus hay and straw that we're sending down to the South West.

"As arable farmers in the East, we suffered a wet autumn last year and our members struggled to get crops grown, so we really can empathise with the much worse situation they're suffering.

"We all pull together, we don't think of ourselves as being in competition as other industries may do. We're all in it together."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMany farms in Somerset were already low on feed after flooding last year
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionFarmer James Winslade believes 94% of his land is under water
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionSome farms have been completely cut off and are accessible only by boat

Farmers around the Levels fear it could take up to two months for their fields to drain - and only then once the downpours stop.

Nick Bragg, Somerset chairman of the National Farmers' Union, said while the aid delivered so far had been "very well received", other support already pledged would prove priceless in the coming months.

"Companies have offered to subsidise grass seeds which will be needed further into the spring, so that's a tremendous help," he said.

"There have been other areas that people have very generously been considering other than just the instant needs."

Back at the Sedgemoor livestock market, farmer Graham Glasper was left "speechless" by the donations arriving.

"I just couldn't believe how many people had got together to help out," he told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today.

But Mr Glasper warned how the effort to support the farmers and their livestock would be "endless".

"We sorted one battle in getting them out of the floods but now there's another to keep them fed."

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