FARMERS once again left counting the cost of the floods are pinning the blame firmly on the Environment Agency.
They claim rivers and streams are not being dredged or maintained properly, leaving them with ravaged crops and spiralling livestock costs.
Agency officials deny the claims, but now one farmer says he fears for the future of the Otmoor nature reserve, much of which is now underwater for long periods.
Terry Moore, of Otmoor Farm, Horton-cum-Studley, said: “It is getting worse every year. The flooding is really bad this time.
“We expect flood water but what we don’t expect is for it to stay on the ground for months on end, which kills the grass and the crops.”
Last year, Mr Moore spent £10,000 re-seeding his land for cattle.
But he reckons the new pasture will be dead within weeks unless the floods subside and he has reduced his herd from 200 to 50, slashing his only source of income.
Paul Cordwell, who farms at Cross Trees Farm, Sutton Courtenay, said: “The biggest problem is the Environment Agency.
“The River Ock was last dredged in about 1972 and now, for the first time, boats coming to Abingdon are running aground.
“Nothing is being done about it all and the flooding is going to get worse. I know how important it is to clear my ditches, but when the river isn’t dredged, the water can’t get away.”
Mr Cordwell lost 180 acres of wheat to flooding last year and has lost crops every year for the last eight years. Now he has changed from planting a winter wheat crop to a spring variety in a bid to avoid the damage, although his yield will be up to a tonne lower.
Environment Agency spokesman Brenda Gair said maintenance work was planned at key locations including the rivers Ray and Bure and Wendlebury Brook.
But she added: “In many cases, dredging will not reduce the risk of flooding, simply because many rivers quickly silt up again as part of their natural processes.
“We focus our efforts on dredging at those locations where it has a proven benefit of reducing flood risk.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for farmers to undertake appropriate maintenance work on rural watercourses themselves, while ensuring wildlife and the environment are protected.
“We have also met the Otmoor farmers on several occasions to advise them how they can best manage flood risk to their farmland.”
Meanwhile, there were last night two flood warnings still in place in the county – one near Henley and one near Shiplake.
The River Thames is set to remain high and there will be scattered showers in the coming days.
Mr Cordwell added: “Our production will go down at a time when the Government wants us to grow more food.
“We are trying our hardest to make the Environment Agency understand their responsibilities, but they will not connect. They just say we are wrong.”
“And I am just about to apply (to the Environment Agency) to dredge a particular stream, but I know what the answer will be — I can’t because it has water voles in it.”
NOMINATE YOUR HEROES
- PEOPLE across Oxfordshire have suffered as a result of the recent flooding. And we would now like you to nominate your flood heroes so we can feature them in the Oxford Mail.
- They could be council officials who have spent hours standing in the cold to pump water away from properties.
- Or they could be neighbours and community leaders who have made a special effort to help out.
- You can nominate your hero at oxfordmail.co.uk/news/floodhero or by post to Flood Hero, Oxford Mail, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX2 0EJ with the nominated person’s details, why you are nominating them and your contact details.