FARMING Minister George Eustice has been called on to support those affected by last week's devastating flash flooding in parts of Upper Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and Wensleydale.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) wrote to him and Therese Coffey, Environment minister, calling for urgent action from the Government.

In particular they want the Environment Agency to issue immediate licenses for affected farmers and landowners to realign water courses that have been changed by the floods, and remove boulders, sand and gravel and other debris from grassland, so it can be returned to its previous use.

They also want environmental stewardship project officers to start immediate farm visits to agree with farmers how works to rectify damage will be undertaken and to issue appropriate derogations where the work would be in conflict with their agreements.

The letter also called for Defra to issue a notice of 'force majeure' to farmers affected by the floods in such a way that impedes their ability to meet cross-compliance rules for the Basic Payment Scheme.

Finally it called on Defra to set up a fund - similar to the one in Cumbria in 2015 after Storm Desmond - to provide financial assistance for rebuilding drystone walls, clearing sand, gravel, boulders and other debris from fields, drying out buildings, realigning water courses and replacing damaged infrastructure.

Dorothy Fairburn, CLA Director North, said: "Farmers and landowners have been devastated by the destruction that has been caused by this flash flooding and it is vital that Government acts quickly to do all it can to ease this distress and help rural businesses get back on track as soon as possible."

Meanwhile a drop-in event for flood affected farmers took place at Leyburn mart on Wednesday (7th).

A range of organisations that could offer help and support including the NFU, Richmondshire District Council, the Environment Agency, York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, the Dales Farmer Network, Forage Aid and farming charities RABI and FCN, all attended and a representative for Richmond Rishi Sunak MP.

Ahead of the event Adam Bedford, NFU regional director, said: "The aim is to provide a one-stop-shop for farmers to directly access the information and support they need and make sure we have logged the extent of the issues facing them. This will be crucial in our work justifying the case for clear-up funding from government through the Farming Recovery Fund.

"The impact of these floods will be felt for many months with farmers facing loss of stock and fodder, destroyed walls and fences as well as tonnes of debris deposited across their land by the flood waters.

"One farmer I spoke to showed me his decimated walls – the stone needed to repair them is three miles away. This demonstrates the scale of the problem and the likely cost."

Mr Bedford said the NFU was looking at both the short term priorities and longer term complicated issues likely to be facing farmers – many are the custodians of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

He said: "We will be using the data collected from affected farmers to act on their behalf with the RPA to try and ensure they receive prompt payments and are not adversely impacted by mapping issues as a result of wall damage and watercourse changes.

"The Farming Recovery Fund was made available by the government in Cumbria four years ago and was a very straightforward approach that we would like to see replicated here."