29th May 2020


Rural Rap

THE UK’S BIGGEST SOLAR PARK WILL BE BUILT IN THE KENT COUNTRYSIDE, reports the Kent Messenger.  The 900 acre project was rubber-stamped by the government yesterday.  The project, to be built on the Graveney marshes between Faversham and Whitstable, will power over 90,000 homes with its 350 megawatts of energy.  Called Cleve Hill, it will host a lithium battery storage the size of 20 football pitches.  Panels – to be erected on current “picturesque farmland and marshes” – will be up to the height of double decker buses.  The project has sparked immense emotional debate since its inception in 2017, with campaigners citing an array of concerns over the location and scale of the development.  Despite the objections, the government (it was too large a project to be handled by Swale Borough Council’s own planning department), has backed the £450m proposal.

FIVE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE ALLEGED EXPLOITATION OF ROMANIAN FRUIT WORKERS, reports Kent Police, the Kent Messenger and the BBC, among others.  Police raided a property in Chatham last week and arrested four men and a woman.  All five were held on suspicion of human trafficking and modern slavery offences and released pending further inquiries.  A number of identified victims were taken to a place of safety.

A MULTI-MILLION POUND FUND DESIGNED TO BOOST THE RURAL ECONOMY HAS CONTINUED TO INVEST IN PROJECTS DURING THE PANDEMIC, reports the Kent Messenger.  The Kent Downs and Marshes and East Kent Leader Programme is part of the rural development programme for England, which is part-funded by DEFRA and the EU.  It has, so far, provided over £5m for rural businesses over the past 5 years, supporting over 100 projects and creating 200 jobs.  In the past three weeks, despite the health crisis, it has invested close to £87k in four projects across the two areas.  Benefitting businesses include an engineering firm, a vineyard, a farm and a charitable trust.

PRIVATE GARDENS ARE NOW PERMITTED TO OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, reports the CLA.  Following significant pressure from the CLA and Historic Houses, the government has clarified its stance.  The Government’s roadmap from 10th May clearly stated that “outdoor ticketed attractions” – including gardens – could not be opened, despite clear evidence that the risk of infection outside was significantly lower than indoors.  The CLA pointed out that garden centres were allowed to open, while gardens could not, and asked the government to think again.  Revised guidance now states that the public can “visit gardens (NB in England only) and land maintained for public use as an alternative open space to spend time outdoors.”  cla.org.uk/cla-win-gardens-be-reopened-public

IT IS BEING MOOTED THAT PUBS COULD BE ALLOWED TO REOPEN AS EARLY AS NEXT MONTH, reports the Countryside Alliance, The Sun, the Daily Mail and many others.  The story comes after the PM asked Government scientists to review the 2m social distancing rule in the “hope” that it can be reduced.  Pubs and restaurants have been closed since the end of March.  The PM told MPs at the Liaison Committee this week that he hopes to allow pubs and restaurants to reopen earlier than 4th July – the current hoped-for date.  The CA has been pushing for the safe reopening of rural pubs with gardens and outdoor space with an aim of boosting the countryside economy.

UK FOOD AND DRINK EXPORTS FELL OVER £700M IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF THE YEAR, reports Farming UK.  New figures show that the sector’s exports fell 12.7% to £5.1bn compared to the same period last year.  Sales to the EU were hardest hit, with total value falling by 17.4% cf 2019.  The decrease was largely driven by the immediate impacts of Covid, including the closure of hospitality and travel sectors.  Demand was more resilient from other nations, including Singapore, Canada and Norway, which each saw sales growth of over 10%.  UK-produced salmon and pork saw growth of over 10%.   farminguk.com/news/coronavirus-uk-food-exports-decline-by-over-700m_55739.html

THE DAIRY SECTOR HAS SUFFERED A £28M IMPACT FROM CORONAVIRUS IN APRIL AND MAY, reports Farming UK.  The loss of the foodservice market as a result of the pandemic has affected a significant number of dairy farming businesses in the country.  Now a new report by AHDB has explored the financial impact on England, Scotland and Wales individually.  It estimates that the average cost to English dairy farmers has been £4,100.  The English government has announced funding available to dairy farmers, and governments from all four UK nations are supporting the AHDB’s new £1m consumer marketing campaign, Milk Your Moments.  farminguk.com/news/covid-19-cost-dairy-sector-28m-in-april-and-may_55725.html

RURAL CHARITIES ARE FACING A SHARP DROP IN INCOME AS CORONAVIRUS SCUPPERS FUNDRAISING INITIATIVES, reports Farmers Weekly.  However, the charities are reassuring farming families that there will be no cuts in the support they offer.  The cancellation of agricultural shows and events as varied as tractor runs, summer balls and YFC initiatives has led to a sharp drop in donations to RABI, among others.  However, would-be donors are thinking creatively, organising a Virtual Tour of Pembrokeshire cycle ride, and a virtual Kilimanjaro trek.  The charity is exploring additional revenue streams and can draw on its reserves, and so remains “absolutely committed” to its pre-coronavirus support programmes.   fwi.co.uk/farm-life/health-and-wellbeing/coronavirus-rural-charities-face-funding-crisis

FARMERS ARE ADVISED THAT LENDERS ARE STILL IN THE MARKETPLACE AS RURAL BUSINESSES CONTINUE TO SUFFER FROM COVID, reports Farming UK.  Finance options are available for farmers to support their ongoing cashflow needs even during the lockdown period, according to Fisher German.  Lenders have reacted quickly to ensure continuity of service moving to a fully electronic application process that can be undertaken remotely.  The property consultancy is advising farmers to review their finances as some may find it a positive time to borrow or restructure existing debt due to low interest rates.  farminguk.com/news/farmers-impacted-by-covid-19-advised-to-review-finances_55713.html

FARM LEADERS ARE TO MEET GOVERNMENT REPS TO DISCUSS DROUGHT MEASURES, reports Farmers Weekly.  Low rainfall over recent weeks is expected to see this May confirmed as the driest on record, and the lack of rain is causing concern over the impact on the country’s harvest prospects.  Although some showers are forecast over the coming days, the Met Office says warm and dry weather will continue throughout the weekend.  The National Drought Group is due to assess the situation and discuss any necessary action.   fwi.co.uk/livestock/plan-now-for-summer-drought-livestock-farmers-told

LIVESTOCK FARMERS ARE BEING ADVISED TO START PLANNING NOW FOR POSSIBLE DROUGHT CONDITIONS, reports Farmers Weekly.  A very dry spring has left many livestock farmers with limited grass growth to meet the growing demand for feed following lambing and calving.  Some farms have reported grass growth to be 40% behind the long-term average and growth continues to be restricted by a lack of moisture.  Building a drought resilience plan now can enable farmers to manage a drought period.  There are several resources available to help farmers plan, including the AHDB feed budget planner.  fwi.co.uk/livestock/plan-now-for-summer-drought-livestock-farmers-told

JAMES DYSON’S FARMING COMPANY IS TO GROW STRAWBERRIES YEAR ROUND FOR THE UK MARKET, reports Farming UK.  The inventor’s agricultural business, Beeswax Dyson Farming, has joined forces with Berry Gardens with an aim to introduce fruit to the market from next year.  The two businesses share sustainability goals, specifically using technology to minimise environmental impacts.  A greenhouse facility is being built, and strawberries will be grown using heat and light generated by an aerobic digester.  The same digester will then convert farm waste into an organic fertiliser that provides nutrition for the glasshouse crops.   farminguk.com/news/james-dyson-to-grow-berries-for-uk-market-all-year-round_55727.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.


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



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