More than 30 Somerset farmers and landowners attended the launch of a new farming advisory group which will form a grass roots voice on water and environmental management across the county.

Farming with the Flow took place near Taunton on Thursday evening (Nov 24) with the aim of giving farmers greater influence over the decision making process and making farming central to policies relating to managing water and the environment in Somerset.

The meeting was organised by the CLA, NFU and The Royal Bath & West Society and delegates heard short presentations from key organisations including the Environment Agency, Natural England, Somerset Rivers Authority, FWAG SW and Wessex Water – the common theme was that all of them would benefit from farmer input.

Graham Clark, Rural Surveyor with the CLA, said: “Land management is key to managing water and the environment – it is farmers and landowners who make the land use decisions and they know and understand the land they manage so it’s vital they are involved in the process.”

Membership of the new group is open to all famers and landowners across the county. It will, said Mr Clark, augment the representational voices of the CLA and NFU at a local level and help influence government bodies such as the EA and SRA, help refine natural flood management initiatives and activities tackling diffuse pollution. The new group will also help provide practical local case studies to help CLA and NFU lobbying at a national level.

“Our ambition is to make the Somerset Catchments Farmers Group a key voice on environmental issues in the county whether they farm on the flat lands of the Levels, the higher areas of the Mendips and Exmoor and Quantocks or the land in between – the issues and concerns will, affect them all and we were pleased that there was a clear expression of support from to form this group.

“Clearly flood management will be an important aspect of the group’s remit - but it will also cover related matters such as diffuse pollution and water quality and it will be the real voice of farmers and landowners within Somerset on water and environmental matters.

An outline terms of reference was shared with the attendees who have been asked to consider any amendment before the group’s next meeting which due to be in March 2017.

Farmers interested in joining the group should contact the CLA or NFU South West offices.