WEST Dorset farmers raised concerns about flooding after meeting with a senior government minister.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay was in the county yesterday to discuss food production and food security with farmers ahead of the Dorset Spring Show.

Farmers also raised concerns about flooding in the area and the challenges they have faced.

Mr Barclay met with members of the Dorset Agricultural Society yesterday ahead of the new show, taking place at Kingston Maurward. It is being held today and tomorrow.

READ: New Dorset Spring Show set for Kingston Maurward

Dorset Echo: MP Steve Barclay with farmer Harry Coutts MP Steve Barclay with farmer Harry Coutts (Image: Andy Jones)

As part of his whistle-stop tour, the minister also met with the Melplash Society and farmer Harry Coutts on his family farm, near Eggardon Hill.

Mr Barclay, who was accompanied by West Dorset MP Chris Loder on his visit, said that he had ‘good discussions’ with the farmers and that there were ‘record packages of grants’ to support farming communities.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) grants offer farmers a range of funding options for different issues.  A total of £427 million has been invested in this scheme nationally for 2024.

READ: Grants of up to £25,000 for farmers hit by Storm Henk floods as crisis continues

Dorset Echo: MP Chris Loder, Harry Coutts and MP Steve BarclayMP Chris Loder, Harry Coutts and MP Steve Barclay (Image: Andy Jones)

He went on to say that British farmers produce ‘some of the best produce in the world’ and that he would ‘very much’ support ideas to incentivise local businesses to buy local produce.

However, one of the challenges farmers voiced their concerns on during talks with the senior minister was that of the weather, and how it is impacting their livelihoods and creating ‘huge challenges’.

Speaking exclusively to the Echo, Mr Barclay said: “I think everyone recognises that these challenges are increasing with climate change.

"That is why we have committed record funding, £5.26 billion over six years to our flood protection with the Environment Agency, that is almost doubling the previous six years."

Dorset Echo: Farmer Harry Coutts discussing his family farm with MP Steve BarclayFarmer Harry Coutts discussing his family farm with MP Steve Barclay (Image: Andy Jones)

Four west Dorset rivers have been included as part of the government's new flood plan and are set to receive £668,000 of a £25 million fund from the Natural Flood Management Programme - part of the multi billion pound government flood programme.

Storms over the winter have caused flooding across the county, impacting roads, businesses, homes, and farm land.

READ: Garage in Burton Bradstock closes following flooding

The rivers, Brit, Bride, Simene and Frome have all burst their banks in recent months, and there's been tidal flooding in Weymouth and West Bay.

Mr Barclay recognised that flooding was an ‘important’ issue to people living in the area.

READ: Weymouth Quayside floods due to high spring tide

Mr Barclay continued: "Firstly, we are investing more in our flood protection, second, we are looking at how we support farmers and land owners in ways that builds greater resilience, and thirdly, when people do experience flooding, it is about getting support out to people as quickly as possible, but also looking at where there needs to be flexibility and being agile in our response."

READ: 'Horrendous' flooding following heavy rain in Dorset

The minister also spoke about providing funding for farmers to create ‘on farm reservoirs’ to enable them to take excess water from rivers in winter.

He added: "There is also a risk at other times of the year, of droughts, where the shortage of water is impacting farmers and reducing yields.

"So, one of the other things through SFIs, is funding for on farm reservoirs, which is good for both taking water in the winter, when there is a lot around, but good in the summer, so we are not taking it from the rivers."