Grower Allan Butler says he feels like he has ‘worked all of his life for nothing’ after losing around 55 acres of crops, worth an estimated £230k, because of flooding.
Part of a river embankment which protects the land at Causeway Farm in Rufford, Lancashire, gave way on Boxing Day allowing floodwater to submerge land that housed his potatoes, cabbages and spring cabbages. The floodwater was more than 10ft deep in some fields.
“I’d usually harvest my potatoes in mid-December but struggled as my son had to have a hernia operation,” said Allan, whose farm is close to the River Douglas.
“Basically all of my cash crop was under water.”
The water came through a two-metre gap in the embankment. Mr Butler says he previously asked the Environment Agency to make sure the embankment was plugged with sandbags and other materials. In terms of turnover, he says he lost an estimated £48,000 of potatoes, £20,000 of cabbage and £160,000 of spring cabbage.
“What really worries me is the threat of the bank bursting again,” added Mr Butler, who was uninsured.
“For me personally how can I recover and begin to grow high value crops again without any protection and the very real threat of the bank bursting again within my lifetime?
“I told the Environment Agency there was a problem with the embankment. It’s also breaking in other places. As a grower, I can’t move crops. If it were cows or sheep you might lose a few, but you wouldn’t lose everything.”
Flooded field of potatoes due for harvest
NFU Lancashire County Adviser, Adam Briggs, said: “A great deal of the focus has been on the impact of the flooding on urban businesses. However we have seen a great deal of damage to farm land and the cost to agriculture will run into millions.
“In West Lancashire horticulture is a major sector and employs thousands of people generating millions for the local and national economy. Just because the area flooded is not on hard standing ground does not mean that the economic impact of flooding is less devastating. We need to find solutions which recognise the importance of farm land and protect it where necessary.”
Allan Butler says he does not know what the future holds, or even if he wants to carry on farming. He said: “I’m 56, I work stupid hours and I’ll end probably end up with a mortgage bigger than when I started out. I never thought this would happen. There’s nothing I can do and everyone’s after me for money because they think I’m going bust.”
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