Local MLA Jo-Anne Dobson has raised concerns about the long term impact of flooding in rural areas, including farmland as farmers across Northern Ireland report land being under water for weeks.
Mrs Dobson, who is the UUP agriculture spokesperson, said: “Severe flooding is currently affecting countless farms across Northern Ireland and will have a long-term impact not just on the land affected but also our agri-food industry as a whole as we enter 2016.
“Flooding on farmland can have a severe impact on the condition of pasture, forage supply and animal performance, as well as impacting on farm cash flow given the costs associated with repairing the land and reseeding after the flood waters eventually recede.
“Following contact from farmers and families affected by flooding I have been in touch with the Rivers Agency and the Agriculture Minister to raise concerns that floodwaters are not receding with large swathes of rural land remaining waterlogged and unusable.
“This includes farmland around the Birches outside Portadown in my own constituency where land has been underwater for around three weeks. The Rivers Agency must urgently inspect the River Bann and consider dredging any areas where the river bed has become silted causing the potential for localised flooding.
“When investigations are conducted into this flooding period, the Agriculture Minister must ensure the Rivers Agency have the right level of resources to carry out any repairs.
“I understand from the Rivers Agency that the River Bann is being held back by Lough Neagh which is currently at a 30 year high. Whilst the control gates at Toome have been open since November they have confirmed to me that it is their view that it will take ‘some time’ for flood waters to recede especially given the impact of further rainfall. However, as time goes on, damage caused to the land and livelihoods only increases.
“I encourage anyone whose property has already been flooded, or is at risk of flooding, to contact the Flooding Incident Line on 0300 2000 100 to request assistance.”