1st May 2020


Rural Rap

THE KENT FOOD & DRINK SECTOR HAS SEEN 16 PRODUCT LAUNCHES IN THE LAST MONTH DESPITE LOCKDOWN, reports Produced in Kent.  In an extraordinary and exceedingly testing month, 16 businesses have launched new products, 128 businesses have started home delivery, 10 businesses have been supporting NHS workers, 80 now offer call and collect services, 33 offer click and collect, 3 have been making sanitiser, 1 has employed a new member of staff, 3 are creating wellness videos, 4 virtual events have been hosted, 15 are supporting vulnerable people in the community and countless recipes have been generated.  The farming community continues to work hard in the fields, buildings and under tunnels as dairy is delivered, cheese is churned, and fruit starts to ripen.   producedinkent.co.uk/good-news-kent-food-drinks-businesses/

KENT IS THE THIRD WORST HIT COUNTY BY THE DAIRY CRISIS, reports Farming UK.  Over 1 million litres of milk have been discarded since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.  Interim data from a new industry survey found that the amount of milk discarded in the fortnight to 20 April was a little over 1m litres.  Kent is the third worst affected county, with 1.4 million litres receive a reduced value or being discarded entirely. farminguk.com/news/coronavirus-over-1-million-litres-of-milk-discarded-survey-shows_55540.html

THE FINANCIAL HIT TO BRITISH DAIRY FARMERS FOR APRIL AMOUNTS TO £9.4M AS A RESULT OF COVID, reports Farming UK.  New research from AHDB shows that the loss of the foodservice markets has a result of the pandemic has resulted in a decline in the milk price for 5,200 out of Britain’s 9,200 dairy farmers.  Nearly 500 farmers have had their milk collections cancelled, 500 have had their payments deferred, 2,200 were asked to reduce their output and 700 had the volume on which they get paid a full price reduced.  Losses are expected to continue through May.   farminguk.com/news/coronavirus-dairy-sector-sees-9-4m-financial-hit-for-april_55545.html

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ARE CONSIDERING A HARDSHIP FUND FOR DAIRY FARMERS AMID THE ONGOING CRISIS, reports Farming UK.  The bottom has fallen out of the dairy market as lockdown measures led to a huge fall in demand from the foodservice sector, meaning that some dairy farmers have had no other option but to pour their milk away down the drain.  Defra Secretary George Eustice is due to discuss the hardship fund proposal with MPs and trade representatives this week, and has already allowed temporary relaxation of competition rules within the industry.  The fund could take the form of a targeted time-limited payment for impacted farming businesses.

FURLOUGHED WORKERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO TAKE UP FARM WORK AS THE GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO WARN OF A LABOUR SHORTFALL, reports Farming UK.  On Sunday, George Eustice said “only about a third” of the migrant labour that would normally be in the UK is here.  He encouraged furloughed employees to consider picking fruit and veg during the outbreak.  Recent figures show that 430,000 firms had applied for the government furlough scheme.  While there isn’t much of an issue yet as harvest has barely begun, a major issue is anticipated from June.  Recent estimates suggest there could be a shortage of 80,000 farm workers.  The government has recently launched its “Pick for Britain” campaign.  farminguk.com/news/coronavirus-furloughed-employees-urged-to-take-up-farm-work_55512.html

AN MP HAS PROPOSED ALLOWING PRISONERS TO UNDERTAKE PAID WORK ON FARMS AS THE INDUSTRY IS IMPACTED BY A LABOUR SHORTAGE, reports Farming UK.  Mark Pritchard said he hoped the government would approve of the idea.  His comments come amid warnings of a major farm labour shortage due to the current lack of international travel.  Despite the Government’s “Pick for Britain” campaign, and the “Feed the Nation” campaign being run by the three main labour providers, many farms are still reporting a shortage of critical labour.  Mr Pritchard said he hoped the government would consider allowing prisoners on early release, community sentences, and reaching end of sentences to get paid work on farms.  farminguk.com/news/mp-proposes-prisoners-help-pick-crops-amid-labour-shortage_55500.html

FARMERS AND LAND MANAGERS IN ENGLAND ARE TO BE OFFERED BRIDGING PAYMENTS FOR UNPAID CLAIMS ON THEIR STEWARDSHIP AGREEMENTS, reports Farmers Weekly.  The interest-free loans will cover CS and ES 2019 payments to ensure farmers are paid for the important work they do to protect the environment.  Eligible claimants will receive a payment in May of 75% of the current estimated value of their claims to help with cashflow.  No bridging loans will be made for 2019 BPS claims, as 99% of these claims have already been processed.   fwi.co.uk/business/payments-schemes/environmental-schemes/coronavirus-defra-to-pay-75-stewardship-bridging-loans

THE GOVERNMENT HAS EXTENDED ITS COVID TESTING PROGRAMME TO INCLUDE FARMERS AND OTHER AGRICULTURAL WORKERS, reports Farming UK.  The move, designed to speed the return of people in quarantine back to work, has been welcomed by farming unions and groups.   The full list of newly eligible people includes “critical personnel in food and drink production” which includes farmers and allied industry workers. farminguk.com/news/farmers-with-covid-19-like-symptoms-now-eligible-for-tests_55508.html

THE GAME SHOOTING INDUSTRY IS SEEKING CLARITY OVER PLANS TO EASE LOCKDOWN MEASURES AHEAD OF THE START OF THE SEASON, reports Farmers Weekly.  Current government restrictions prevent recreational shooting, but where the use of a gun is essential to pest control or humane dispatch, this is still allowed.  50% of shoot owners are cancelling or scaling back their planned shoots this season as a result of the virus, according to Knight Frank, with 33% scaling back and 17% cancelling altogether.  While shooting is by no means alone in its planning difficulties, it has long lead-in times and significant financial commitments which have to be taken very early on.  The major concerns are over movement restrictions and the practicalities of observing social distancing.  Very few estates have made gamekeepers redundant, furloughed or reduced salaries.

THERE IS AN INCREASING BELIEF IN THE IMPORTANCE OF FOOD SELF-SUFFICIENCY, reports Farmers Weekly.  A independent survey carried out during the crisis shows that the public have a more favourable view of farming – perhaps encouraged by the efforts of growers and livestock producers to feed the nation during the crisis.  28% said their view of British farming was more favourable than 3 months ago, while only 11% said it was less favourable.  51% said they felt Britain’s ability to produce its own food had become more important.   fwi.co.uk/news/coronavirus-public-support-for-british-farmers-increases

UK LIVESTOCK SCIENTISTS ARE SHARING THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE IN THE RACE TO CONTROL THE SPREAD OF COVID, reports the Farmers Guardian.   The Moredun Research Institute near Edinburgh has been researching livestock diseases for 100 years, but has shifted its focus to Covid-19.  Not only is it working with the NHS to share its testing capabilities, it is also sharing its understanding and experience of pathogen transmission, immunity – either through vaccination or infection – and its measurement, and biosecurity and accurate surveillance.  fginsight.com/news/agricultural-scientists-drafted-in-to-aid-covid-19-research-108102

M&S HAS LAUNCHED A SIX-WEEK CAMPAIGN TO SHOWCASE THE “FANTASTIC EFFORTS” OF ITS BRITISH SUPPLIERS DURING THE PANDEMIC, reports the Farmers Guardian.  The campaign will promote the retailer’s 10,000 British farmers and growers through a range of advertisement mediums, including TV, social media and in-store displays, in a bid to encourage consumer support for producers.  Adhering to lockdown conditions, M&S will use “farmer cam footage” with interviews from suppliers across the country in addition to newly re-edited versions of its “Fresh Market Update TV Series” which will air on ITV after then 6.30pm news.  The retailer has also proposed new sales initiatives to support its farmers, including a 100% British meat food box.  fginsight.com/news/british-farmers-championed-through-a-new-major-retailer-campaign–108156

SOIL EROSION IN PARKS FO THE UK IS AT UNSUSTAINABLE LEVELS, reports Farming UK.  This is leading to fears that it could trigger a drop in crop yields.  Research found that 16% of records relating to arable land show erosion above tolerable levels – meaning rates of soil loss are significantly greater than new soil formation.  Not only could it affect yields, but soil run-off also leads to significant extra sediment in waterways, increasing ecological damage and flood risk.  Land management affects erosion rate, as do soil types and local geography.  The highest UK erosion rate was found on a single field in West Sussex in the early 1990s.  farminguk.com/news/-unsustainable-levels-of-soil-erosion-found-in-uk_55499.html

Pick for Britain!

A Government website aiming to link prospective farm workers with prospective employers.  Growers can now register their vacancies for this year’s harvest.  Please visit: https://pickforbritain.org.uk/ to register your requirements.

Offer of Assistance

A Tenterden-based contact has volunteered his services to any farmer who is short of staff due to the Covid-19 situation.  He has past experience (3-4 seasons) of lambing with Romney ewes having worked on a mixed farm that included 500 head of sheep for 4 years.  He is based near Tenterden but is happy to travel as required, and permitted by ongoing restrictions. 

For contact details, please contact info@ruralplc.com or sophiedproudfoot@gmail.com to be put in touch.


A huge number of military veterans are on the hunt for casual farm labour over the coming months. 

To discuss the possibilities further, please email info@ruralplc.com or sophiedproudfoot@gmail.com in the first instance and we will put you in direct contact with those leading the project.


A NEW APP HAS BEEN LAUNCHED WHICH ENABLES USERS TO REPORT A FULL RANGE OF INFORMATION RELATING TO RURAL CRIME IN KENT.  The Country Eye App was prompted through a project initiated by Peter Rolington and Mike Bax and developed by Ether Creative in Maidstone. The App can be downloaded onto mobile phones free of charge. It enables users to report a full range of information related to rural crime, including fly tipping and has now passed the impressive milestone of 5000 users. Information is reported every day from all over Kent and relayed by Country Eye to Kent Police or other relevant authority. Linked to the report is a facility to photograph the location of an incident or event, which goes through to Country Eye with a GPS location enabling easy identification of the site. If you haven’t done so already, go to the App Store and download Country Eye.  https://countryeye.co.uk/ 


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


Thousands of temporary workers are needed on British farms to help feed the nation during the coronavirus pandemic. 
Jobs are available on fruit farms, arable farms, livestock farms and in pack houses – with workers also needed to fill other vacancies. 
Follow @Kentslandarmy on Facebook for specific opportunities, or visit:
To apply, please visit: Hops Labour Solutions: https://hopslaboursolutions.com/
Concordia: www.concordiavolunteers.org.uk / 01273 422 218
Pro-Force Recruitment: https://pro-force.co.uk/ / 0333 335 6262
CDS Labour: http://cdslabour.co.uk/
British Summer Fruits: www.britishsummerfruits.co.uk/jobs / 020 7575 7654



Do you need someone to talk to?
The Farming Community Network
Helpline: 03000 111 999
7am – 11pm, every day of the year
Available to anyone in the farming community

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