Added pressure on Bedfordshire farmers as hot 2014 raises risks of drought

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CLA East says the need for farmers and landowners in Bedfordshire to be able to manage water effectively is a pressing priority, following the news that 2014 was one of the warmest years on record.

Data released by the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and the Met Office this week revealed that last year was 0.56C above the long-term average and was the joint warmest year on record with 2010.

The Met Office added that there was a “clear warming trend” relating to global climate.

This news adds to the increasing pressure on farmers and landowners to feed the growing UK population, which is set to reach approximately 70million by 2030, while delivering an improved and sustainable natural environment.

CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood said: “The news that 2014 was one of the warmest on record comes as no surprise, and means the effective management of water will be high on the agenda for farmers and landowners in Bedfordshire and across East Anglia not just this year, but for the long term.

“They will want have more control and be able to conserve it effectively for the benefit of agriculture and nature.

“Long periods of drought and high temperatures will lead to a reduction in summer river flows, severely restricting the availability of water for food production, which would have a devastating economic impact on agricultural businesses.

“It is therefore obvious that to better manage water resources greater collaboration between the Government and its agencies, and farmers and landowners is required.

“It needs to be easier to build a reservoir, as they can help ensure crops are irrigated throughout the worst droughts. They are an essential part of the farmer’s toolkit for securing water and from an ecosystem services perspective they also provide storage in times of flooding.

“It takes a huge amount of capital outlay to embark on such a project, but there should be finance available through Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) funding, which should come on stream in May or June this year. Water resources development is a priority for RDPE – and this includes reservoirs – so if you want to know more, contact one of our advisers in the Regional Office.

“We also need to continue to investigate how water companies, agriculture, financial institutions, retailers, real estate, and engineering can work together to finance reservoirs to ensure sufficient availability of water.

“Land for food production is a finite commodity and climate change will impose limitations. With every hectare needed to produce more and more food, it’s important that the Government works with farmers and landowners to find mutually beneficial solutions. Without collaborative solutions, it won’t be just rural communities and businesses suffering, but the nation as a whole.”