SOFT fruit, ornamental, field vegetable and other growers who use trickle irrigation are urged to attend NFU meetings to look at the potential impact of new abstraction rules.

The meetings will be held in Staffordshire and Herefordshire for all NFU members as the new application window for water abstraction licensing opens.

The NFU estimates that more than 5,000 water users will have to apply for water abstraction licences for the first time and those who irrigate crops using trickle irrigation methods will be affected.

Defra has also published a water abstraction plan setting out how they will reform abstraction management.

The meetings will be held on 9 February at 10am at Staffordshire County Showground and at Kindle Hall, Kindle Centre, Hereford, at 2.30pm.

Paul Hammett, NFU water resources specialist, Sarah Faulkner, NFU regional environment adviser, and a team from the Environment Agency, EA, will go through the new system and lead growers through the application process.

Mrs Faulkner said: “These proposals signal a major upheaval to the current abstraction licensing system and it’s absolutely vital that they deliver a fair share of water to help our farmers and growers produce affordable, high quality food.

“The reform package must be underpinned by measures that encourage more surplus river water to be stored by helping farmers to construct more reservoirs, including by offering tax incentives.

“Secure access to water at times of drought is crucial for our members and we will continue to focus on the Defra’s plans for managing water at low river flows.”

The NFU has welcomed the proposed abolition of section 57 restrictions that currently apply uniquely to farmers and growers, however, abstractors will still be subject to more general restrictions during times of low river flows.

Mrs Faulkner said the union would continue to press that ‘Water for Food’ be recognised as a high priority use during times of shortage.

“We submitted detailed comments to Defra’s consultation in 2014 and it is reassuring that many of our recommendations have been adopted, particularly those that seek to recognise and cater for the erratic use patterns common in irrigated cropping,” she added.

“However, the challenge facing the agri-food sector lies in ensuring that producers are given a fair allocation of water for food production when existing licences are transferred to new permits.

“The NFU will use the next few years to ensure that Government policy and legislation moves at a measured pace to allow farming businesses sufficient time to adjust and invest in water security and efficiency measures.”

Members who would like to attend a meeting can book by contacting the regional office on 01952 409247 or by email.

For further information about the new water abstraction plan please contact Mrs Faulkner by email to or call 01952 400500.