Environment Minister Richard Benyon MP will deliver the opening speech for the Water Summit at East Malling Research that will bring together leaders of the water industry, government, farmers, growers and agricultural advisers.
The conference, which will take place on November 12, has been convened by the Farming and Rural Issues Group South East, with support from the NFU and CLA.
FRIGSE Chairman and Summit Organiser Andrew Colquhoun said: "Water security is fundamental to increased production by farmers and growers. Yet, parts of the south and east of England only get the same rainfall as Beirut. We want to ensure that farmers and growers in the region have access to a fair share of water resources and enjoy equal status with other users, given their vital role as producers. Obviously we'd like to see investment in science and technology to help the agriculture and horticulture sectors to manage their risks. Among the first steps must be measures to encourage the development of on-farm water storage and flexibility in the abstraction licensing regime."
NFU South East Regional Director William White said: "The NFU has highlighted the importance of ensuring agriculture has fair access to water, amid increased competition during drought conditions. Agriculture uses only one per cent of abstracted water in the UK. Yet it faces increasing pressure due to population growth and long-term climate change. Any further tightening of water regulation must not leave our farmers and growers facing a reduction in access to water rights and volumes of water."
CLA South East Regional Director Robin Edwards said: "Back in July the CLA welcomed proposals that offered businesses more choice in the water market as set out in the draft Water Bill. Farmers and growers in the South East are increasingly worried about the long-term availability of water at an economic price in a region which is facing substantial increases in urban demand for water and more frequent dry winters. It is vital we have a well-constructed framework that ensures a fair allocation of water so farmers and land managers can meet the future challenges of food production and land management. We hope that through the Water Bill and the subsequent review of the abstraction system, the long-term needs of farmers and growers will be given proper priority."
Time - Registration and coffee from 10.00 for a 10.30 start. Finish by 15.30
• Introduction by Andrew Colquhoun, chair of the Farming and Rural Issues Group for the South East
• Opening address from Richard Benyon, Defra Minister for Water
• Building water resilience in agriculture and horticulture, Paul Hammett, NFU Water Resources Specialist
• Environment Agency perspective: Ian Johnson, National Water Resources Manager
• The water companies' perspective: Meyrick Gough, Water Planning and Strategy Manager, Southern Water
• Q&A on morning session
• Lunch (sponsored by Laurence Gould Partnership and the Environment Agency)
• What the industry can do to become more water efficient
o Charles Carr, Lowaters Nursery
o Robert James, Thanet Earth
• How research can help: Dr Mark Else, East Malling Research
• Panel session chaired by Keith Leddington-Hill, Laurence Gould Partnership