15th January 2021


Rural Rap

THE WILDER BLEAN PROJECT IS RECRUITING TWO BISON RANGERS, reports the BBC.  The recruitment is part of the scheme to introduce bison into Blean Woods, Kent’s ancient woodland.  A close knit herd of four bison will be introduced in a 200ha fenced enclosure by next spring.  Bison are peaceful and naturally manage habitats, said Kent Wild Trust and the Wildwood Trust.  Rangers will be responsible for health checks, maintaining infrastructure and monitoring visitor interactions with the bison.  The job is the first of its kind to be advertised in Britain.

BROGDALE COLLECTIONS IS ON THE HUNT FOR A NEW CHAIR OF TRUSTEES, reports Kent Online.  The charity, which is responsible for the public’s access to the National Fruit Collection, organises festivals and events, guided tours, education visits, courses, fruit-tastings and sales as part of its remit to get the public to engage with the world’s largest collection of temperate fruits.  The National Fruit Collection, at Brogdale Farm near Faversham, is funded by Defra and curated by the University of Reading.  Funding is only for maintenance and research of the collection on a scientific basis.  Without Brogdale Collections Charity, the collections would be on a closed site with no public access or engagement.

ONE OF THE UK’S LEADING EGG PRODUCERS POSTED A LOSS OF OVER £2.5M IN 2019, reports Farming UK.  Fridays also warned that it had since been hit by the impact of the pandemic, which has devastated many other businesses in the UK.  While egg trading has improved this year, the company’s chilled food products division was impacted by the effects on its food service customers.  Despite the setbacks, Fridays has submitted plans for a multi-million-pound free range development on a 237-acre site near Marden.

RABI HAS LAUNCHED THE LARGEST EVER FARMING MENTAL WELLBEING SURVEY, reports Farming UK.  The survey is targeting 26,000 responses from farmers and those in the agriculture industry.  It aims to identify how complex challenges within the sector are impacting people’s physical and mental wellbeing, as well as farming businesses.  It will identify the specific challenges that a generation of farming people face, as well as highlighting how these impact daily life.
For details on how to participate, please see box below.

FARMERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO BE WISE TO THE THREATS OF CYBERCRIME, reports Farming UK.  Cybercrime is becoming one of the most common forms of criminal threat faced by the agriculture sector.  In 2019, over 60% of agricultural businesses reported one or more digital attacks, compared to 46% across other sectors.  As Covid forces the world to become more digital, that threat is increasing.  While phishing is the most common form of cyber threat, farmers are also urged to be wary when buying agricultural machinery.  Some tips to protect your business include: keeping old software up to date, backing up data, using anti-viral software, using strong passwords, remembering that banks will never ask for personal information, and avoiding clicking links without being confident that they’re genuine.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS APPROVED EMERGENCY AUTHORISATION FOR A NEONIC BASED PRODUCT TO TREAT SUGAR BEET SEED, reports Farming UK.  The authorisation is for the use of Syngenta’s Cruiser SB on sugar beet only, and covers use in 2021 in England. Defra said the move was in recognition of the potential danger to this year’s crop from virus yellows.  The NFU has previously warned that the disease was having an “unprecedented harmful impact” on the sugar beet crop, with some growers reporting yield losses of up to 80%. The European Commission originally approved a ban on neonics in 2018 due to environmental concerns, and particularly the risk to honey bees.

UNMANAGED WILD DEER HERDS ARE SET TO WREAK HAVOC IN UK WOODLANDS AS VENISON DEMAND PLUNGES, reports the Guardian.  Unmanaged wild deer herds could soon pose a threat to woodlands and important wildlife habitats in Britain because the commercial market for venison has collapsed during the pandemic.  Many in the game industry, as well as conservationists, fear too few deer are being culled to keep the estimated two-million-strong wild herd – the largest for a millennium – at a sustainable size.  Deer have been through two breeding cycles since the first national lockdown and, due to collapsed demand from the hospitality industry, perhaps just 20% of the normal cull is being done.  The RSPB said that excessive deer populations had a detrimental impact on the habitats of many birds, including nightingales, warblers and willow tits.  This is becomes an over population of deer tends to generate more uniform habitats, without the niches for other species.


RABI has launched the largest ever research project in England and Wales relating to the wellbeing of farming people.  This wide-ranging survey will consider for the first time the relationship between physical health, mental wellbeing and the health of farm businesses.

Who can take part: farmers, farm workers, their spouses and adult-aged children
When: 11th January to 31st March 2021
Content: the survey will take about 15 minutes to complete and will cover three aspects: your mental health, your physical health, and the health of your farming business.
Availablity Online: rabi.org.uk/BigFarmingSurvey
Available in print: hard copies will be circulated in various farming magazines and via postal farming lists.  Alternatively, email FarmSurvey@exeter.ac.uk

The aim is to get 26,000 questionnaires completed, to give a better understanding of the overall health of our industry, and to help target the available support to where it is most needed.


Michael Bax, chair of the Kent Police Rural Crime Advisory Group, received a number of enquiries after lockdown seeking clarification as to how shoots could manage the unsustainable residual number of birds on the ground following the loss of much of the 2020/21 shooting season.  There are a number of considerations:

1. a massive welfare issue
2. disease potential
3. crop damage as birds forage beyond their normal range

Kent Police engaged immediately and are still consulting.  Below is his summary of the advice to date:

– Lockdown guidance indicates that people can leave home and meet in groups for work purposes.  That only applies for paid employment.  Accordingly, culling, pest control or other land management operations appear to be permissable as long as participants follow the “Working Safely During Covid” guidance.

– In summary therefore, the need to control the bird population is understood, but this should be done by paid employment.  It is stressed that it would be against the spirit of the guidance to allow groups to gather to shoot on a voluntary basis, as that could and would be perceived as shooting parties via the backdoor.

– Accordingly, it is for shoots to organise keepers and other paid employees to conduct the necessary management

Beyond that, we all have a legal and moral obligation to stay at home, undertake no unnecessary travel, and control this dreadful disease.


RABI, Addington Fund, FCN, Forage Aid and RSABI, supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, have launched the Farming Help initiative.  The initiative is also being launched with the NFYFC, the NFU and the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust. 
FARMING HELP recognises that this will be an anxious time for many farmers and farming families and periods of poor health or self-isolation may result in temporary practical difficulties on farm.  For help drafting a contingency plan, for practical local help with livestock, shopping etc, or to discuss your concerns and anxieties,

Contact 03000 111 999 or visit www.farminghelp.co.uk

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