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Farmers blame lack of dredging for damage to fields
7:00am Friday 14th February 2014 in News
FARMERS across Oxfordshire have lost thousands of pounds due to the flooding and are blaming the Environment Agency.
Landowners claim poor management of the waterways has resulted in more than 1,000 acres of land being submerged in West Oxfordshire alone.
One farmer has lost hundreds of acres of crops and says he may have to slaughter his animals.
Brian Franklin, who owns Moorlands Farm in Murcott, near Kidlington, said: “My land has been under water since before Christmas, so the grass is probably ruined.
“That means I have nothing to feed my cattle, so they may have to go as well.
“There’s a hunger crisis in this country, but no-one wants to help the farmers. How else will food get on the table?”
Farmers are blaming a lack of dredging, claiming the waterways have not been properly looked after in decades.
Mr Franklin, 68, added: “The rivers are all bunged up and they all want digging and trimming. The Government keeps saying it hasn’t got any money but prevention is better than cure.
“Instead of spending millions now to try to cure the job, they should have put that into the rivers before and we wouldn’t have these flood problems.”
Tim Hook, 32, owner of Cote Lodge Farm, Bampton, said: “It’s just bad management.
“They need to look after the waterways more – they’ve not dealt with the rivers properly for 30 years.”
Mr Hook insisted farmers were clearing their ditches, and said: “We’ve got our house in order – the Environment Agency needs to do its bit.
“They’re just using the whole of this area as a storage tank.”
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is supporting farmers’ claims.
Peter Kendall, NFU president, said: “We must use all the tools available to us and make dredging a priority.
“Declining maintenance in rivers and watercourses and a reduction in investment in pumps and infrastructure is reported across the country.”
But the Environment Agency (EA) says a large part of the waterway maintenance is the responsibility of the farmers themselves. EA spokesman Dan Taylor said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for farmers to maintain rural watercourses themselves.
“In fact, we have been working closely with farmers in Oxfordshire and held workshops to show them how to undertake maintenance of watercourses and reduce the constraints around undertaking their responsibilities.”