A Somerset Farmers’ Fund has been launched by the Royal Bath and West Society to help those affected by the flooding on the levels get back on their feet when the water recedes.
Edwin White, chairman of the Society’s Agricultural Policy Group, said the move is as a result of people wanting to give money to help the farming community once they return to their land.“It is about Somerset and its communities helping itself,” he said.
“The land will take time to recover from the floods and that will bring its own hardship. The Society has always been here to help the farming community and this will continue following the recent tragic events,” he added.
Jane Guise, Society chief executive, said: “We have seen the most wonderful response to appeals for emergency relief and all the charities are talking weekly to ensure there isn’t a crossover and money is going to where it is needed.
“Now we as the Society are looking to the medium term following a request from farmers and our members to help those who need to get their businesses back off the ground.
“It won’t be a quick fix – If the grass grows and it is still under water, the water will kill the grass. There will be nothing to make forage and this could go on for the next year.
“The Somerset Farmers’ Fund is not emergency relief, it is for the medium term once the water recedes and has come about at the request of the Somerset agricultural businesses.”
The Society is liaising weekly with the other charities such as the Farm Crisis Network (FCN) whose volunteers provide practical and emotional support to farmers and farming families affected by severe flooding and in the longer term will also be able to help stand alongside people needing business support; the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), which is giving grants to farming families in Somerset and beyond from its Emergency Fund to meet the domestic costs of badly affected farmers with no savings to fall back on; the Addington Fund which can support farming businesses by making a contribution towards haulage costs and the Somerset Community Foundation which is funding emergency relief for householders.
The Somerset Farmers’ Regeneration Fund will run alongside the Society’s Somerset Levels Relief Fund launched six months ago by Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis to tackle the long term needs of the area.
Mr White said: “The big push has to be for the long term care of the Levels. The initial dredging is for eight kilometres of the Rivers Tone and Parrett but in total we are talking about 100km of rivers which will need to be dredged and cleaned and brought back to good order.
“As a condition for providing emergency financial support, the Government has asked for a 20 year action plan with matched funding covering all aspects of flooding in Somerset.
“The fact the Society launched this self-help fund last Autumn has put us in good stead as we have shown we were able to take action ourselves.
“As a result, many of those involved in launching the original relief Fund are now on the taskforce headed by Anthony Gibson preparing the plan for the next two decades.”
Mr White said when the Society was founded one of its key aims was to promote the good of the community by the encouragement of industry and ingenuity.
“The work we are now doing embraces this original ethos as we are about going to the cause of the problem and sorting the problem out for the long term. This may involve discussions about the county and the community being responsible for the water management themselves.
“The support for the community in the short-term is vital and the emergency relief fund-raising by Somerset Community Foundation has been phenomenal but equally important is looking to the long term future for the generations to come.
“The combination of the short-term Government action and the long term plan means that Somerset has the best opportunity for many years to beat the menace of flooding and manage the water on the Levels in ways that will produce the outcomes we all want.
“We have all been given the opportunity to make a difference and we hope you, your family, friends and businesses will join us.”
To donate to the long-term plan, or to the Famer’s Regeneration Fund visit: www.bathandwest.com 0r call 01749 822200