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  • How Is the Heatwave Affecting UK Farmers?

How Is the Heatwave Affecting UK Farmers?

Aug 16 2018 Read 778 Times

While the hot weather might be welcome news to the majority of Britons, it has caused complications for a number of national industries. Chief amongst these is agriculture, with elevated temperatures and a lack of rainfall posing difficult challenges for farmers up and down the length and breadth of the country.

Whether it be maintaining the health of livestock or cultivating crop yields, water is an invaluable resource in farming. The recent drought has placed farmers in a tough position, especially as they are required by law to meet abstraction obligations. However, in light of the recent extreme weather, the government has announced additional support to help UK farmers through this dry patch.

Dealing with drought

June 2018 has been the driest on record since 1925, while July was also incredibly arid. This has led to many farmers struggling to irrigate their crops and safeguard the welfare of their livestock. On top of that, all farmers must comply with their abstraction licenses, which only allow them to take a specified amount of water out of the ground for fearing of upset the natural environmental balance.

However, the Environment Agency (EA) has announced that it will be temporarily relaxing the laws surrounding abstraction licenses for those in the worst affected parts of the country. As well as using high-resolution monitoring of rivers and maximising access to them where possible, the government will also permit farmers to trade their water allowances without having to obtain a new license.

Furthermore, in cases where there is a clear and present danger to the life of animals or crops, the EA has also indicated that it is open to the possibility of one-off, emergency abstraction. These instances are expected to be highly unusual and will be assessed on a case-by-case to avoid undue damage to the environment.

Not everyone entitled to abstract at will

The new rules are intended as short-term measures to exacerbate the most serious effects of the warm weather, and Paul Hickey, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, has stressed that they will not be applicable in cases where abstraction is to the detriment of other vital industries and ecosystems.

“We know that farmers are facing considerable pressures in responding to drought conditions and we want to support them by allowing them to flex their abstraction licences in the most serious cases to safeguard food production and animal welfare,” he explained. “We must also balance farmers’ needs with those of wildlife and other water users, so we will only allow these arrangements where we are satisfied there won’t be any adverse effects on the environment.”

The announcements by the EA should come as welcome news to an agricultural industry under extreme pressure right now. Not only has the sector been disrupted by the recent scorching weather, it has also had to deal with the upheaval on the horizon as Brexit looms ever closer.  

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