A scheme to support flood-hit farmers must open as soon as possible, the CLA has urged, after one of the wettest and stormiest winters in decades.

As spring blooms and lambing continues across the North and beyond, thousands of acres of prime food-producing land remain submerged or waterlogged, following months of relentless rainfall and the wettest 12 month-period in 150 years.

February was the fourth wettest since records began in 1871 in England, with a rainfall total of 130mm representing 225 per cent of the 1961 to 1990 long-term average, and there have been ten named storms in recent months.

Some winter crops did not get planted, while others have been washed away, with conditions so poor many are already fearing for harvest this year. Most of the losses are uninsurable.

After Storm Henk in early January, the government announced that farmers who had suffered uninsurable damage to their land from that storm would be able to apply for grants of up to £25,000 through the Farming Recovery Fund.

But the fund is still not open, three months later, and the CLA is calling for urgent action.

Acting CLA director North, Henk Geertsema said: “The fund is welcome but farmers need help right now and it must open as soon as possible.

“The impact of flooding on farm businesses up and down the country is profound, damaging infrastructure such as fencing and walls, contaminating soil and jeopardising environmental projects. Crops and livestock have been badly affected, and any reduction in domestic food production may lead to an increase in imports and prices.

“Farmers are dynamic and forward-thinking and are used to working with extreme weather, but the last few months have been especially difficult. The winter rainfall is pushing businesses to their limit and many fear for this entire cropping season.”

Landowners do not receive compensation when the Environment Agency effectively floods their fields to protect downstream houses and villages, despite the harm to their crops and livelihoods, and the CLA is calling for more support to repair the damage.

Henk added: “Years of poor management of watercourses and flood defences by the Environment Agency, often caused by lack of resources, means farmers are still unfairly shouldering the burden of flooding devastation.

“Farming businesses are willing to help protect homes and businesses from flooding by storing floodwater, but in turn there should be recognition of the added burdens on farmers with appropriate compensation.”