29th November 2019


Rural Rap

THE KENT LIFE FOOD & DRINK AWARDS 2019 TOOK PLACE LAST NIGHT, report Kent Life.  The prestigious awards are designed to champion, highlight and offer a showcase to the good and the great from the region’s food and drink industry, including local producers and suppliers, small farming businesses, chefs, restaurants, pubs and hoteliers.  All the finalists are businesses which care about the countryside and the future of our local environment.  Nominations are taken from Kent Life readers, and the judges are a hand-picked panel, who all live and work in Kent – and include two of Rural PLC’s directors!  Winners include: Best Farmer’s Market: Cliftonville; Best Farm Shop: Quex Barn; Kent Life’s Food & Drink Hero of the Year: Stefano Cuomo of Macknade Fine Foods.
For a full list of winners, please visit: https://www.kentfda.co.uk/2019-finalists

CORKK, A KENT-BASED WINE SUBSCRIPTION BOX, HAS RECENTLY BEEN LAUNCHED, reports Corkk.  Unlike normal online marketplaces, given the fact that English wine woutsidethe South East is not well known, Corkk’s service curates a selection of English wine with the purpose of introducing hard to find English wines.  Each month, Clive Barlow, onf just 385 Masters of Wine in the world, will search, taste and select a variety of still and sparking English wines.  Consumers sign up to receive a monthly, quarterly or twice-yearly box of wine.  They don’t know what the wine will be, but all wines will come with detailed notes.  The first box is dominated by Kentish wines.  (You can also buy a one-off box just in time for Christmas!)

THE COUNTRYSIDE ALLIANCE HAS REVIEWED ALL THE MAIN PARTIES’ MANIFESTOS WITH AN EYE TO THEIR RURAL AGENDA, reports the Countryside Alliance.  Overall, it claims, the Tories recognise the needs of rural communities, promising to roll out gigabit broadband to all areas of the countryside, tackle rural crime, improve rural transport and review business rates.  Labour have addressed some rural issues such as transport and farming, and its inclusion of rural-proofing is welcome, though its plans to renationalise BT could delay rural broadband delivery.  The Lib Dem manifesto is the only one to recognise rural communities in each policy area, but its plan to reform business tax could well penalise farmers heavily.  The Green party, says the CA, appears to want to “work against the countryside, rather than with it.”  The Brexit Party manifesto does not recognise rural communities specifically at all and is “notably short on detail.”

THE LIB DEMS HAVE PROPOSED TO SUPPORT FARMERS BY SETTING LEGALLY BINDING TARGETS TO IMPROVE WATER, AIR, SOIL AND BIODIVERSITY, reports Farming UK.  The centrepiece of the party’s manifesto is, unsurprisingly, a promise to scrap Brexit altogether.  The manifesto also unveils an emphasis on protecting the rural environment and reversing biodiversity loss.  It states that farmers would be supported to protect and restore the environment alongside their “critical roles” in producing food, providing employment and promoting tourism, leisure and wellbeing.  The party would introduce a Nature Act to restore the environment, supported by funding streams of at least £18bn over five years.  The Lib Dems would cut basic agricultural support payments to larger recipients, and introduce a £5bn fund for flood prevention and climate adaptation.   Caged hens would be banned, and the responsible use of antimicrobials would be promoted.  It would also develop “safe, effective, humane and evidence-based ways” of controlling bTB.

THE TORIES WOULD GUARANTEE TO MATCH THE CURRENT BUDGET AVAILABLE TO FARMERS IN EVERY YEAR OF THE NEXT PARLIAMENT, reports Farming UK.  The current annual budget for agriculture in the UK currently stands at £3bn, and this would be protected.  The party has also promised to replace the “bureaucratic, unfair and environmentally-damaging CAP” with “public money for public goods” over a seven-year transition period.  The CLA welcomed the pledge, saying it is “vital” for all parties to now guarantee that farmers would not be undercut by cheap imports post-Brexit.

BORIS JOHNSON HAS PLEDGED TO FAST-TRACK PLANS TO BOOST MOBILE COVERAGE IN RURAL AREAS IF THE TORIES ARE RE-ELECTED, reports Farming UK.  The proposal would be fast-tracked in the first 100 days in the event of a Tory general election victory.  The “Shared Rural Network” would see new masts build and existing infrastructure shared between the four mobile phone prociders.  The additional coverage would be extended to 280,000 homes and businesses, and 16,000km of roads.  The claim is that this will virtually eradicate the not-spots that exist in some rural areas, where “No Service” plagues mobile phones.

LABOUR’S PLAN TO INTRODUCE FREE BROADBAND FOR EVERY HOUSEHOLD COULD SLOW DOWN RURAL CONNECTIVITY, writes Farming UK.  Labour have promised to give every home and business in the UK free full-fibre broadband by 2030 as part of a £20bn plan.  The party would nationalise BT to help realise the policy and introduce a new tax on tech giants to help fund it.  While the CLA welcomed the political focus on broadband from all parties, it warned that Labour’s plan could “collapse investment,” and “could actually slow down progress, not speed it up.”  Rural groups have said that an end to the rural and urban digital divide would support businesses to create jobs and enable people to access services.

RURAL BUSINESSES ARE URGED TO APPLY FOR A SHARE OF THE £35M CURRENTLY UP FOR GRABS, reports Farming UK.  The fund is part of the government’s “Growth Programme” and the aim is to help rural businesses to prosper, unlocking their potential and future proofing their business  It offers three types of grant: business development grants, food processing grants and rural tourism infrastructure grants.  The scheme has already granted rural UK businesses nearly £100m.  £35m is available in the latest round of funding, but this could rise to £50m if there is a high number of high calibre applications.

FARMERS WHO HAVE MADE TAXABLE PROFITS ARE REMINDED OF THE TEMPORARY INCREASE IN AIA TAX RELIEF, reports Farming UK.  The Annual Investment Allowance relief was announced in the 2018 autumn budge, which allows farming businesses to invest and grow, effectively benefiting from £1 tax relief for every £1 spent.  The AIA was increased to £1m per year until January 2021.   While that may seem a long way away, depending on a business’s financial year-end, the cut off for benefitting could be sooner rather than later.  Business owners are encouraged to speak to their accountants and advisors to ensure they get the timing of purchases right to maximise the available tax savings.

A NEW ROUND OF GRANT SCHEMES COULD BOOST PRODUCTIVITY AND UNLOCK NEW DIVERSIFICATION PROJECTS FOR FARM BUSINESSES, reports Farming UK.  The £50m Woodland Carbon Guarantee Scheme seeks to encourage land managers to create new woodland in return for payments as those trees grow, unlocking potential new revenue streams.  Under the plans, rural businesses that take advantage of the grants could create jobs, boost tourism and drive growth in the local economy.  The scheme enables successful participants the option to sell Woodland Carbon Units to the government at a guaranteed price every five or ten years until 2055/56.

A FARMER MUST BE ACTIVELY FARMING IN THE LAST YEARS OF LIFE TO QUALIFY FOR IHT RELIEF, reports Farming UK.  Anyone wanting to claim agricultural property relief from IHT on a farmhouse or business property relief as a farmer must be actively farming in the last years of life.  A recent tribunal concluded that by undertaking the day-to-day husbandry of the grass and animals, the farmer in question had been actively farming, so his farmhouse qualified for the relief.  If he had not, while the land might still have qualified on its agricultural value, the house and other business assets would not.

EXTREME WEATHER HAS HIT BRITISH POTATO PROCESSORS FOR A SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR, reports Farming UK.  The impact could stall frozen potato and crisp production.  The PPA is warming that growers across the UK remain “extremely concerned” with production.  That said, despite the wettest harvest since 2012 and the third worst autumn on record, growers were still able to lift 89% of the 2019 potato harvest.  However, since those figures were released in mid November, the weather has worsened and much of the remaining crop remains in the field.

UK GROWERS ARE SET TO PLANT LESS NEXT YEAR DUE TO ADVERSE WEATHER CONDITIONS, reports Farming UK.  Only 1.65m ha of wheat is planned, compared to 1.82m ha last year.  The winter barley area may also drop to 398,000ha, 12% own on this year.  The survey shows a swing towards spring cropping, with a 28% uplift in spring barley.  Oats are also expected to increase again, this year by 10%.  OSR is down 23% as growers continue to cut back on acreage in response to CSFB.

FARMERS AND AGRICULTURAL GROUPS ARE IN UPROAR OVER THE BBC’S ANTI-FARMING BIASED DOCUMENTARY: Meat, A Threat To Our Planet,  reports Farmers Weekly, Farmers Guardian, and many others.  Agricultural groups including the NFU and the NBA have joined dozens of farmers in registering formal complaints about the programme.  The content of the programme has been billed as “nonsense” – for example, it claims that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the transport sector, which in the UK context is massively false – agricultural emissions are 10%, compared to 27% for transport.  The programme included footage and interviews from US cattle feedlots and intensive pig units, focusing on the scale of production, the impact on the atmosphere and the pollution of watercourses.  Presenter Liz Bonnin then travelled to Brazil to highlight the ongoing destruction of the rainforest to make way for cattle ranches, saying “it makes me sick to my stomach.”

A FARMER HAS SUGGESTED THAT CUSTOMERS’ NUMBER PLATES BE PRINTED ON FAST FOOD BAGS TO STOP THE SCOURGE OF LITTER IN THE COUNTRYSIDE, reports Farming UK.  In a tweet to McDonald’s, the farmer pointed out that the technology is available for fast food giants to start printing registration numbers on takeaway packaging.  Cleaning up the countryside and streets costs the taxpayer almost £800m a year, according to the NFU.


FCN is a voluntary organisation supporting farmers and their families through difficult times.  With over 400 volunteers across the country, its confidential helpline is open every day from 7am to 11pm. 

The charity is strengthening its local volunteer groups in response to a growing need for support as a result of ever-increasing challenges facing those who work in the sector. 

If you have an understanding of the farming industry, a genuine interest in the wellbeing of those who work in it, and are seeking a rewarding voluntary role, please get in touch. 

FCN KENT is seeking a Group Co-Ordinator, a Group Chairperson, and other volunteers.

For further information, please contact:

Mark Thomas, Regional Director (South), at mark@fcn.org.uk or on 07815 082 326

CONSERVATION GRANTS of up to £10,000 now available

The Old Chalk New Downs project is offering grants for capital work proposals that contribute to securing habitat connectivity and improving access across the project area, through the enhancement and management of chalk grassland, hedges and ponds. 

If you have a project idea, please contact William Moreno at: william.moreno@kent.gov.uk, call 03000 410 348, or visit www.oldchalknewdowns.org.uk.

Dates for your diary

2nd December : Cover Cropping for Clean Water and Profitable Farming
FWAG South East and Affinity Water are holding a free event at their Kent cover crop trials site.  You are invited to view this year’s plots and hear the latest on the benefits of different mixes, their agronomy and management into the following grop.  BASIS & NRoSO points applied for.  The morning will begin with breakfast and short presentations before visiting the nearby trial plots (by kind permission of Dough Taylor, Hope Farm).
Find out about the impact cover crops have on water movement and winter nitrogen losses from land with real data; hear about the latest on farm specialist advice available from CSF, and listen to Hertfordshire farmer Ian Waller’s experiences on zero tillage arable farming, including grazing management of cover crops.
Alkham Village Hall, Alkham CT15 7BU
This is a FREE event, but booking is essential
8.30am to 12.30pm, including breakfast
To book, please contact Paul Cobb on 07713 333 160 / 01233 813 186 or email paul.cobb@fwagsoutheast.co.uk

3rd December : Carols at Christmas
Raising money for R.A.B.I.  and FCN
For children and adults of all ages, in the cattle ring at Ashford market.  Music and singing, nativity play with real animals and real smells, free mulled wine and mince pies.  Raffle for a Christmas hamper, donated by Perry Court Farm Shop.  Courtesy of Hobbs Parker.
The Cattle Ring, Ashford Market, Kent TN24 0HB
Entry is completely free, dress warmly.
For further information: Richard Beaugie on 01233 732 580 or randjbeaugie@gmail.com

4th March: Farm Expo
Farm Expo, organised by the Kent Agricultural Society, showcases machinery, supplies and services for the agricultural industry with trade stands, seminars and networking opportunities.  Kent’s standout agricultural event will host major national and international providers of farm machinery and services and will host seminars on the industry’s trending topics.
Trade stands can be booked until 31st January by contacting Meghan Rice-Wilson on meghan@kentshowgroumd.co.uk / 01622 633 057
The Kent Showground, Detling
To register your attendance: http://bit.ly/2LdY4l1

To receive the Rural Rap direct to your inbox please contact info@ruralplc.com